My mom is getting ready to visit our family and, although the flight isn’t excessively long, it still works out to be about a 12-hour day including layovers, flight time and getting to and from airports. She doesn’t complain about her physical challenges: a sore knee aggravated by tight spaces; walking long distances; standing for lengthy periods and on uneven surfaces; edema in her leg due to previous radiation treatments for cancer; and a shoulder prone to dislocation. Travelling often exacerbates her symptoms, but she doesn’t always vocalize these challenges.
While it’s unlikely my mom will take advice from her youngest daughter to ensure her trip is as comfortable as possible, perhaps you will take away some handy tips before your next trip.
Make Friends with Reality. Be very clear with your travel agent, transportation company (plane, cruise, train, bus) and accommodation provider about your limitations. This is not the time to be overconfident or minimize health, mental or mobility challenges. Also, not all disabilities or challenges are evident, and giving specific details allows for better service and planning.
Research your destination. Take time to become familiar with climate and ease-of-access places to go and see. Most cities are investing in accessible communities and will often provide information on accessible attractions. It’s also handy to find out about medical and health facilities at your destination.
Medications. Ask how medications are handled at security checkpoints and what documentation you need to bring. For example, most transportation providers request that you keep all medications in their original containers and some over-the-counter products from Canada require prescriptions in other countries, including the United States. Keep all information about your prescriptions with other documentation close at hand. Pack an extra supply of medication. If you use oxygen, airlines have rules about how they handle it, so check beforehand.
Assistive Devices. If you use a wheelchair or other mobility aids, let your transportation company know ahead of time to allow for proper preparations. You may need to transfer to a boarding wheelchair somewhere between check-in and boarding, and you can ask to delay this for as long as possible. Ask how your mobility aid will be secured and stored on board. If you have a hearing aid, be sure to carry extra batteries, and always carry an extra set of glasses, as well as the prescription for replacement, in case of loss.
Best Bit of Advice: Give travel and accommodation providers at least 72 hours advanced notice to ensure you get the help you need. You may also want a friend or family member to assist you through the terminal. Ask
ahead of time if you can get a temporary pass to get your escort through the secure zone to the boarding area.
Download Take Charge of Your Travel: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities at www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/take-charge. We’ve had excellent feedback about this guide and one of main takeaways is to use the service by calling 1-888-222-2592 or by TTY at 1-800-669-5575. Or send an email to email@example.com and they’ll point you in the right direction. If you are travelling locally in BC, the www.hellobc.com site has a page (click on About BC tab) dedicated to information on accessibility and accessible locations and activities.
Finally, enjoy the journey!