Travelling with a disability can be challenging for the traveller themselves, their companions and for the travel providers. Even though people with disabilities are quick to adapt to new situations, it can be hard to leave the comfort of home and a familiar situation. Even though you might not have a mobility van or wheelchair accessible vehicle at your disposal when you’re traveling, we’ve put together some travel tips that we think will help make your trip that much easier and help you know what to expect!
When travelling by air, you’re allowed to use your wheelchair until the point at which you need to board the aircraft. At this point, you will be transferred to an aisle chair, a skinny, narrow chair that can be easily pushed down the aircraft’s aisle. Your wheelchair will either be gate checked, which means that an employee will drive the wheelchair right into the underbelly of the plane, or if there is room, it will be stored in the airplane’s cabin.
If you typically use a scooter or electric wheelchair to get around, it’s strongly recommended that your device uses gel cell or dry cell batteries. If your wheelchair uses wet cell batteries (like the ones used in cars), things might get a little trickier because airline staff are required to separate the battery from your scooter or wheelchair and store it in a leak-proof container for the duration of the flight.
If you use a scooter that is going to be stored beneath the plane during your flight, it’s suggested that you place a piece of removable tape on top of the throttle control and secure the control in the lowest position. Make sure to write “Do Not Remove” on the piece of tape. Also, be sure that your key or power pin is well-secured to the scooter with a durable cord. A good option is a 12 or 14 inch, 60 or 80 pound steel leader from a fishing supply store. Additionally, don’t forget to remove any removable baskets or seat cushions and carry them into the plane. You don’t want to risk them getting lost during the flight.
Like scooters, electric wheelchairs will be stored beneath the plane during the flight but unlike scooters, they should be pushed and not driven. We know that many airline staff will actually attempt to drive the wheelchair into the plane but this is not ideal since you will want to protect your expensive investment. You can do a few things to prevent anyone from driving your wheelchair, like switching your chair’s transmission into neutral so that it can be easily pushed. Unplug the battery from your chair and put a small piece of electrical tape over the connector ends. If you can remove the power cord, it is better to just take it with you on board the plane.
Travelling with your wheelchair on an airplane can often be frustrating because you aren’t with it the entire time to make sure that your wheelchair is being handled properly. The best thing you can do to remain stress-free and enjoy your travel is to take as many precautions as possible to prepare your wheelchair for flight.
Do you have any other tips for people travelling by air with their wheelchairs? Please share what has and hasn’t worked for you below in the comments!