Do not let your physical and mental challenges stop you from traveling when you want or need to. You can get preferential seating by Air Carriers Access Act. Feeling confined or not in control of your symptoms may keep you from traveling by air. Do not let fear control you. Control whatever you can. Consider what you need to continue traveling in comfort. Are there really things one can do?
A reader offered some excellent suggestions to help get over the fear of traveling by air and how to be comfortable with your daily challenges. It was through these suggestions one felt like there were more options for traveling by air.
The Air Carriers Access Act protects people with challenges
The carrier cannot refuse service based upon your disability. They can refuse service only if you are safety hazard to others but carriers are required to provide a written explanation of what they perceive as the safety hazard.
If you are challenged you are not required to give advance notice, but if unsure you may inquire how the airline can help you. There is a request of at least 48 hours when special seating is required. Always plan ahead. Travel can be stressful for those without challenges, and it adds to daily life challenges for those with disabilities. Only you know your needs. Do not abuse this, but use it effectively so you can travel.
There is no limit as to how many people with disabilities can travel at one time. Most airlines need advance notice if special medical equipment is needed during flight such as: respirator and electric wheelchair.
cannot can travel alone. If the carrier requires an attendant to travel with the person and the person disagrees about the necessity attendant the airline cannot charge the attendant for their flight.
Movable aisle armrests are on 50% of aisle seats. Newer and larger aircraft must have accessible lavatories. They must have space for storing the folding wheelchair in the cabin otherwise it must be approved by you to have them check it in storage. This can be risky, because if it is put in storage and damaged you may arrive without a working assistive device. That is definitely a downside to letting them check mobility devices. Most aircraft with more than 60 seats have an on-board wheelchair to assist those to an inaccessible lavatory.
Personally, I have found the assistance with boarding, deplaning and making connections beneficial. This is an excellent opportunity if you move slower than others. With invisible injuries coordination is often impaired, especially when rushed.
Connecting flights may be tricky. Moving quickly, distractions, and disorientation are common in airports. Make sure you let them know you will need assistance with connecting flights. You do not need to provide any information. If you feel you need to give an explanation let them know you deal with “cognitive problems“, hence you are a bit slower they will not question you further. Many people in all age groups deal with varying degrees of “cognitive problems”, visual, and hearing deficits of varying degrees … and can benefit from a little help.
- Making Connections
Luggage needs to conform with FAA rules with stowaway and carry on luggage. All assistive devices do not count against limits on carry on baggage. Wheelchairs and assistive devices take priority for on-board and checked in baggage. Some airlines accommodate more than others.
There is no extra fee for extra packaging of batteries used in electric wheelchairs. They can charge an extra fee for oxygen and other services. Check with the airlines if you have a medical condition that warrants a possible delay or extra service.
There are a number of other provisions that includes service animals, security screening, medical certificates, mobility and assistive devices, and others. Make sure if you have certain allergies, medications (especially injectables-sharps) or nutritional restrictions you notify the airline carrier in advance.
ACAA give the qualified party ‘BUMP’ authority. This means you can take a seat already assigned to a non-ACAA passenger. The 48 hours before flight time limit for these rights are the problem.
Some airlines are not as accommodating so you need to improvise. A few suggestions here are to: read, use a laptop, pull a hoodie or blanket over your head, close your eyes, use sleep blinders, dark sunglasses, or other compensatory methods you have learned.
Limiting distractions and decreasing confusion
- Use laptop
- Pull hoodie or blanket over head
- Close eye
- Sleep blinders
- Dark sunglasses
The bulkhead area offers the best visual and physical space. Also good for leg room, no rows directly in front of you and less distractions. You can also request an aisle seat.
Bulkhead aisle seats are ultimately the best when dealing with visual and physical space problems frequently seen in TBI. Expect that while claiming disability, they can fight you because those seats are often exit rows. If you have the physical strength to manipulate emergency exist doors you can tell them that you are exit row qualified (able to operate an exit door), otherwise you will need to use another strategy to compensate for comfort. Never jeopardize the safety of anyone regardless of your personal situation.
The ACAA requires asking for preferential seating more than 48 hours before the flight. Usually the airline holds these seats for VIP passengers who prefer last minute seating and first off deplaning. Because of this they do not release them except at the gate.
- ACAA “bump status”- 48 hour notice request seating
- Bulkhead area
- Aisle seat
- Exist rows require physical strength to manipulate quickly emergency exit doors
TBI & Other Medical Diagnosis with Cognitive challenges
A reader provided an explanation that many with TBI endure, “The visual problem I experience is rows and rows of the tops of seats and the backs of heads. This is a serious visual overload.” This person finds it helpful to use medical terms, such as telling the attendants you have a “visual processing disorder” that causes problems when you “have too much clutter (seat backs and heads) in your visual field.
Unfortunately, there are many people who make life difficult by using wheelchairs unnecessarily, especially in airports. Below in related articles are writings covering these topics.
For the full version of the Air Carrier Access Act visit http://www.dotcr.ost.dot.gov/asp/airacc.asp
Another tip for the EFD crowd (executive functioning dysregulations).
Don’t try to wrangle with those blinking/moving “locate your gate and arrival/departure time” boards. Go to the counter, tell them you’re dyslexic and have trouble reading the signs and ASK them to direct you where you need to go (any gate – doesn’t have to be your carrier – which you may need help locating in the visual overwhelm of a busy airport).
Even workers at crazy/busy times have been more than gracious about helping me with my “dyslexia” – and saying “I have [fill in your disorder here] and need help” doesn’t always garner the same cooperation. Many too many hear that as an “excuse” rather than a bona-fide problem.
Medications while traveling
We all know to keep meds with us and not in our checked baggage, but if your meds are controlled substances BE SURE to include prescription documentation – WITH your medication, ideally. It’s a good idea for all meds, actually, especially if you will be traveling for a long enough time that you need to take enough with you that it might arouse suspicion.
EVEN if you make sure to keep your doctor’s name and number at the ready (DO this, btw), if you end up being someone whose carry-on luggage is searched, it may not be possible to reach your doctor before you miss your flight.
The advice is to carry medication IN the bottle it was packaged in by the pharmacy – label with your name on it right on the container. “I have always used another method, since I don’t want to carry more medication than I will need for the trip, and need those M-T-W etc. medication containers to track whether or not I’ve taken today’s meds.”
“On returning from the pharmacy (while it’s still “fresh”) I carefully peel the label off the bottle and affix it to an index card I place in my wallet – then I parse my medication into a month’s worth of M-T-W reminders. #4 is hot pink, btw – the others are translucent and uncolored (helps remind me that it’s time to go get a new script – we have to jump through those hoops monthly and its common for ADDers to notice when they’re running low ONLY once they’re totally out, thanks to a kludgy sense of time – if we let ourselves run out, you would not BELIEVE how difficult it is, unmedicated, to jump through the hoops to get them back on board)”
“When I travel, I put my card in a zippered container WITH one or two pre-filled M-T-W meds containers (I think it was designed to hold purse-sized Kleenex™ in an old piece of luggage – it has velcro™ on the back . If I hadn’t run across the zipper dealie I use, I would probably stick both in an eyeglass holder (the fabric kind with an open top). Also helps me locate my meds easily when I’m traveling, since my usual systems are blown on the road.”
“BTW – this is *especially* important when traveling with meds by car or train, btw. – even across town. Some states even have laws requiring same, and the best advice is to assume that ALL states do when traveling across state lines. Check the laws in your state if you, like I, carry a small container of “back up meds” in your purse. You might be able to prevail in a court of law, should you be stopped, but who wants the hassle?! Better safe than sorry.”
“Neurotypicals” have no IDEA how many niggling little details we must remain aware of, systematize and be sure to track, huh?”
***The above suggestions and new ideas regarding Medications were quoted from comments to help others. This is from the resource addandsomuch.com where everyone deals with multiple issues everyday and everywhere. Take some time to look over the site as it’s definitely an educational and enlightening experience.
- Inside Money: Wheelchairs on planes – it could be worse (or more expensive) (nzherald.co.nz)
- Airports and the temporarily disabled (brobrubel.wordpress.com)
- Complaints Alleging Discriminatory Treatment Against Disabled Travelers Under The Air Carrier Access Act (thehandiestone.typepad.com)
- Arthritis and Mobility: Understanding Your Wheelchair Options (arthritis.answers.com)
- Disabled man tells of airline woes (nzherald.co.nz)
- Disability Advocates Speak Out Against Airport Wheelchair Abusers (newyork.cbslocal.com)
**********All material presented on Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation (BISR) is copyright and cannot be, copied, reproduced, or distributed in any way without the express, written consent of Edith E. Flickinger, BSN RN.