Spinal cord injuries, whether caused by car accidents, diving accidents, sporting injuries, boating accidents, falls or other accidents, can profoundly affect mobility and daily life. Florida residents who have spinal cord injuries often find that traveling, for example, becomes much more difficult after their accident. Negotiating airlines, airports, hotels and tourist attractions with a spinal cord injury is possible, but it also requires more work.
If you have a spinal cord injury and need to fly, make airline reservations in advance and inform the airline when you are booking your flight that you have a disability and will be using a wheelchair. If you have a powered wheelchair, you may need to tell the airline what sort of batteries the chair runs on. If you have a service dog or need help getting on or off the plane, you need to tell your airline this information in advance. Try to book your seat in advance so that you can select a seat that will be most convenient. A few weeks and a few days before your flight call the airline and make sure that your spherical requests have been correctly noted and the airline can accommodate you.
When arriving at an airport, give yourself plenty of time. Consider looking at the airport website before you arrive to note appropriate parking spots, elevators, ramps, and other amenities you may need. Where possible, consider having a friend drop you off at the airport. A friend can not only help you in the rush of an airport but can also help you with your luggage.
When making hotel reservations, tell the reservation agent that you have a disability and ask what rooms and amenities are available for someone with your needs. If you need to have special bathroom features, such as a shower chair, be sure to note this information to the agent. A reservation agent can also be helpful in finding accessible transportation to and from the hotel, if you need it. As with your airline ticket, call ahead to ensure that your room has been correctly booked and you will have the amenities you need.
When making train reservations, tell the reservation agent whether you are taking your wheelchair and whether you have a service dog. The agent may need some details about your chair in order to determine what accommodations the train can make for you. If you have seating preference, be sure to mention it when you are booking your trip.
In general, when traveling you will need to ask specific questions. Many tourist destinations and transportation companies claim to be “accessible” in a general way but are not very accessible at all. When speaking with an agent, ask specific questions – “Are there elevators? Ramps? Stairs? Curbs?.” Double-check the information you are given. Take out travel insurance so that if a destination is not as accessible as they claim to be you will be able to get your money back.
Before you travel, also take a list of local repair shops at your destination. Consider taking an extra wheelchair or extra parts if you are traveling to a remote location where service may not be possible. If you are traveling outside the US and have a powered chair or any electrical equipment for your condition, consider bringing a converter if the electrical currency at your destination is not the same. See your doctor before you travel for advice and for any added medication you will need.