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Disability Air Travel: Information for Seniors & Disabled

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  • Synopsis: Last Updated: 2015-03-07 - Information and accessibility tips on air travel for persons with disabilities including US TSA security screening and permitted items

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Travel by air for people with health issues, handicaps, disabilities or special needs, can be challenging. The following air travel tips will help make your flight and trip, whether domestic or international, easier, cheaper and safer.

When making your travel reservations, request any carts, wheelchair services or any other transportation you'll need. Fully describe your limitations and needs. Get your airline ticket and boarding pass well ahead of time so you don't have to wait in any lines. You'll be able to arrange travel at a discount, get better travel deals, and avoid last minute travel headaches.

Talk with your airline representative or travel agent regarding the type of restrooms that are on the airplane. Call your airport and find out as much information as possible about the restrooms and handicapped parking at the airport.

You'll need to find out how you'll be boarding the airplane at each of the airports involved in your trip. You may need another type of airplane or alternative route so you'll have Jetways, or jet bridges, into the plane from the airport and not have to worry about stairs.

Air Travel Tips:

  • Think about what seat arrangement will work best for you needs. Would an aisle seat make it more convenient to get to the restroom? You'll want to avoid sitting in the emergency exit row. The passengers in this row may be asked to help others in an emergency situation.
  • Let the airlines and flight attendants know if you have any assisting devices. Find out the best way to store them so they arrive without damage.
  • Always keep in mind what you can do easily and without assistance, as well as situations that would require help.
  • Can you transfer to seats by yourself? Will you need a transfer board or assistance from airline staff
  • Consider hiring a travel nurse if you have serious health or medical issues. There are traveling nurses networks.
  • Can you describe your wheelchair, scooter or walker, dimensions, weight, type of tires, type of batteries, etc.You may need to take along spare batteries. You also may need to rent or buy a travel wheelchair.
  • Make sure to mention to your travel agent or airline representative any assisting devices you may need or already have like canes and crutches. Do you need a slow pace or are you a slow walker
  • If you will be traveling through different time zones, how will jet lag affect your situation
  • Consider how the following will be of concern during your trip and discuss with your travel agent: upper body strength, communication ability, speech issues, voice issues, vision problems, hearing problems, heat issues, medication needs, oxygen requirements, and dietary requirements such as gluten-free meals.
  • Try to arrange or book your air travel through experienced travel agencies or tour operators that specialize in disabled travel. There are a large number of agencies throughout the U. S., Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries.
  • Just in case you need them, it's also good to know if there are any travel agencies that specialize in disabled travel at your destination, for return travel, local resources or travel services.
  • At the airport let airline boarding personnel know that you may need extra time to board the plane. Sit close to the door at the gate so you're called first and then board at a comfortable pace.
  • After the plane has landed, never get off the plane until you see or have your assisting device, wheelchair, travel wheelchair, etc. Flight attendants have to stay on the airplane until the last passenger leaves. They will help you while you're on the plane but once you're off the plane they won't be able to help you.
  • Make sure you carry your medications and back-up prescriptions with you onto the plane, along with doctors' names, addresses, fax numbers for faxing prescriptions, phone numbers, medical diagnosis, names and dosages of medications you're taking and any allergies you have.
  • Photocopy passports, airline tickets, American Express Travelers Checks, credit cards, any important papers.

United States TSA Security Screening for Persons with Disability:

The United States TSA has established a program for screening of persons with disabilities and their associated equipment, mobility aids, and devices. All disability-related equipment, aids, and devices continue to be allowed through security checkpoints once cleared through screening.

NOTE: Carry your health insurance information with you on the plane. Know what you'll do if you encounter a health problem or medical emergency on your trip. Get travel insurance to ensure less costly medical assistance. These emergency bills may not be covered under your health insurance policy. It'll ease your mind to have this back-up travel insurance and prevent costly emergency medical charges on your trip. Emergency medical costs can run considerably higher than standard medical fees.

Quick Facts: Assistive Devices Allowed on Flights

Disability-related items permitted through the security checkpoint include:

  • Casts
  • Crutches
  • Wheelchairs
  • Support braces
  • Service animals
  • Ostomy supplies
  • Orthopedic shoes
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Support appliances
  • Baby apnea monitors
  • Augmentation devices
  • Exterior medical devices
  • Assistive/adaptive equipment
  • CPAP machines & respirators
  • Canes
  • Walkers
  • Scooters
  • Hearing aids
  • Slate and stylus
  • Cochlear implants
  • Braille note takers
  • Tools for prosthetic devices
  • Personal supplemental oxygen
  • CO2 personal oxygen concentrators
  • Medications and associated supplies
  • Tools for wheelchair disassembly/reassembly
  • All diabetes related medication, equipment, and supplies
  • Any other disability-related equipment and associated supplies


Latest Air Travel Publications

  1. Training to Improve Access to Air Travel for People with Disabilities
  2. Agreement Reached on Providing Accessible Bathrooms on Single-aisle Aircraft
  3. Making Air Travel More Accessible for Passengers with Hidden Disabilities - CAA Guidelines
  4. New Rule Requires US Airlines to Report Wheelchair and Scooter Transport and Damage
  5. Expanding Choices for Travelers with Disabilities - Detroit Metro Airport


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