Three Tips for Accessible Air Travel

Content via Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Candace loves to travel, especially by air. Her company, Open Doors Organization, has documented the extensive amount of travel done by people with disabilities in the past two years, with about 11 million travelers with disabilities in the U.S. taking 23 million flights alone. 

Traveling for people with disabilities requires much coordination and communication between the traveler and the airline.

“People with disabilities want and do travel, but for us, taking a flight isn’t just about booking a seat, finding that seat and settling in for the flight, without a worry. We must plan, plan, plan and communicate over and over to airline staff what our needs are and how to satisfy those requests."

As both a wheelchair user and someone who loves to travel, Candace has documented some tips and tricks that work for her in ensuring a pleasant flight. Here are three great ones:

woman in a wheelchair sits next to a check-in counter at an airport
  • Arrive early. It allows for more time to relay your concerns and needs, such as tagging your wheelchair properly. There are lots of details that typically must be sorted out by the traveler and communicated to the airline staff, so arriving early allows you plenty of time to handle all these details without feeling rushed.
  • Use the mirroring method of communication. Asking the airline staff to repeat your instructions back to you helps to ensure that there is no miscommunication. Candace stresses that effective communication is key to minimizing hassle and uneasiness. There is a degree of responsibility that one must undertake to clearly indicate your needs so that the airline staff can better assist you. “This way we, all travelers and airline staff, will have confidence in creating the best possible travel experience,” writes Candace.
  • Pre-board your aircraft. As a wheelchair user, pre-boarding will allow you more time to board the plane comfortably, and could also give you more options for storing your chair. If there is room, some airlines will allow a wheelchair to be stowed in the cabin (typically in a closet) rather than in the belly of the aircraft.  

Share this post with someone who is planning to travel by plane in the near future!

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