[et_pb_section admin_label=”section”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]
Flying can often be the easiest way to travel long distances. If you use an electric wheelchair, however, the thought of flying can be terrifying. There are thousands of stories out there about the airlines’ mistreatment of wheelchairs and sometimes even disabled passengers. Try not to think too much about these stories, put your common sense to work and enjoy your flight!
Protecting Your Wheelchair
I have always put a basic sign featuring a stop sign with instructions for the baggage handlers not to lift the chair by the armrests on my wheelchair before I turn it over to the airline. After having the airline break my chair last time I flew, I decided to step up my efforts before my trip a few weeks ago. I made several copies of a very detailed sign and had my attendant tape it in several places on my wheelchair before we boarded the plane. My sign was, of course, specific to my wheelchair but yours should say anything you feel the baggage handlers need to know about your chair. At the bottom of the list of instructions, I added, “This wheelchair is the equivalent of my legs. Without it, I can’t leave the airport so please be careful.”
After you are on the aisle chair, have your attendant take a picture of your chair from every angle and make sure that it is done in sight of the baggage handlers and any airline personnel. If your wheelchair does happen to get damaged in transit, you will have undeniable proof that it wasn’t in that condition before takeoff.
Speak Up For What You Want
If you are seated in the middle or rear of the plane, ask the gate agent if it would be possible to move closer to the front of the cabin. There is always the possibility that you will be told no, but it nevers hurts to ask.
A problem that I ran into on my recent flight was the aisle chair. The airline personnel insisted that my attendant was not allowed to help me transfer to or from the aisle chair, yet they were not trained. By the end of the trip, my attendant and I had to insist that she be allowed to transfer me since she was familiar with what to do. Do not let them tell you what you should do or how you should be doing it.
Always Know Your Rights
Take some time to familiarize yourself with your rights as a traveler with a disability before your flight. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not cover air travel. Treatment of travelers with disabilities is covered by the Air Carrier Access Act. The ACAA was passed in 1986 and prohibits any major airline from discriminating against passengers based on disability. It also requires carriers to accommodate the (reasonable) requests of passengers with disabilities. It is a good idea to download this and carry a copy with you when you travel.