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Happy Wednesday!

We are in the final countdown of days to Christmas, and perhaps some of you are planning to travel around the holidays. Air travel IS possible for people who use wheelchairs, and I would encourage you to not shy away from flying places that you might want to go to. Whether to visit family or friends, take a vacation or even a business trip, some advance planning and preparation are key to a succesful and enjoyable experience.

First, make sure you specify your needs when making your initial plans with the airline.

Second, allow PLENTY of time for all parts of the process: arrive early and allow extra time for going through security and getting to the gate. If you need assistance curbside, let the airline personnel know what you need. Once you’re at the gate, make sure the gate agents know you need an aisle chair or assistance. You’ll probably be the first passenger to board, so be ready!

Third, make sure you take all removable parts of your wheelchair onto the plane with you, and your seating cushion if you will use that on the plane. Make sure your chair is tagged and marked properly for any special care that needs to be taken. This is especially important for power chairs.

Fourth, always allow for delays! Make sure you have extra supplies for cathing and know how you will handle a situation if it arises. Delays are inevitable these days (or so it seems!), so being prepared is essential.

Finally, when you arrive at your destination, check your chair throughly to make sure it is not damaged, all parts are accounted for and it is safe to use. Don’t transfer into it until you are sure it is safe! If it is damaged, take pictures and document what has happened, and file a claim.

Air travel can be troublesome for everyone to some extent, and with added challenges of accessibility, accomodations, wheelchairs and extra supplies needed, you do need to plan accordingly if you have a disability of any sort that requires special attention. There was a story in the news recently about a 12 year old girl who uses a wheelchair being treated unfairly by the TSA. It happens, and it’s awful. My son was, I believe, unfairly targeted when flying out of Denver airport several years ago, and the commotion they caused and the way he was treated probably violated his rights as a person and a passenger. It’s a difficult situation, though, and while you may not deserve the treatment the TSA seems intent on imposing on you, it’s a very helpless feeling to be at their mercy. Try to document anything that seems ufair, and get names and badge numbers for follow-up later on.

I hope you enjoy traveling and go many wonderful places! Using a wheelchair may present additional challenges, but I hope they don’t prevent you from going anywhere you want to go!

A recent edition of Life in Action (Sept-Oct 2012) has some wonderful information on various travel activities and tips. Check it out!   http://www.spinalcord.org/getting-there/

Happy and safe travels! Cynthia

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