Regardless of who you are, traveling is stressful and requires plenty of prepping and planning. Adding a wheelchair into the mix can make travel even more complicated. But traveling with a disability and a wheelchair doesn’t have to be a nightmare. If you plan ahead, do your research, and prepare for possible setbacks, you can control the situation and make your travels as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Make an Emergency Plan
Everyone preparing for a trip should make an emergency plan. However, those who are traveling with a disability and a wheelchair run a higher risk of something going wrong. Make sure a friend or a family member has your flight information, the address of where you’ll be staying, and the contact number for your hotel before you leave.
It might also be a good idea to do some research on the neighborhood you’re staying in so you can familiarize yourself with the area. If you're going out of the country, another thing to consider is getting a travel protection membership. Trusted companies, such as MedjetAssist, can even arrange medical transportation back to the hospital of your choice in the event of an emergency.
Before the Trip
One of the most important things to do before starting a trip is to make sure your wheelchair is in good working order. Consider taking it to be serviced so you can avoid the headache of a breakdown in an unfamiliar area.
You'll also want to do your research so you know what to expect when arriving at the airport. Be sure to confirm whether you'll be able to bring your chair onto the plane and know what the procedures are for boarding and deplaning. If you aren't taking your chair with you on the plane, you might want to attach clear directions for disassembling and reassembling your chair.
Wheelchairs often need to be disassembled for storage during the flight and then reassembled before they’re returned to the owner.
At the Airport
Unfortunately, not all airlines go the extra mile to make the lives of disabled travelers easier. Because of this, it’s important to be over-prepared. Reconfirm your flight with the airline 24 to 48 hours prior to flying. Because flights are often delayed, you want to minimize any surprises.
Arrive earlier than recommended to make room for likely setbacks. Ask for “maximum assistance” when you arrive for check-in and request an aisle seat for easier access. When traveling with a wheelchair on an aircraft, remember that it’s a cooperative event. It’s important to acknowledge that not all airlines will be as careful as they should be with your chair, and they might not fully understand your needs. Be prepared to have to explain your needs and don’t be afraid to make sure you get what you need.
While traveling with a wheelchair isn’t always the most convenient experience, it doesn’t have to be overly difficult. With a little bit of extra preparation, you can travel with your wheelchair but without added stress.