So you want to go on holiday, take a well deserved city break or have to visit family some ditsance away. The entire process from planning to actually getting to your destination can be stressful for anyone and for us with physical disabilities who have to travel with wheelchairs it caan get worse !
Wheelchair users generally suffer restrained mobility and some find it very inconvenient to have to move about with bulky luggage. Nevertheless, travelling is not impossible for us wheelchair users so don't despair. Some of us travel on a regular basis and have become accustomed to moving about without much assistance. Once a few of the basics are cracked it beocme second nature and travel is no longer a big challenge.
Although to some the idea of travell may sound quite discouraging, do not let the thought hinder you from going where you want to go. If you caan adopt this attitude you will conquer even the most ardious of journeys.What may be encouraging are tips experienced travellers have taught others who would like to try travelling with their wheelchairs.
Wheelchairs on aircraft
When reserving flights us wheelchair users should inform ourselves about who they will be flying with and what restrictions are made when travelling with a wheelchair. European legislation assigns airports responsibility to provide assistance to passengers with special needs from their arrival at the airport, up to their embarkation, including assistance with getting seated inside the aircraft and storage of hand luggage. The majority of airlines cater well for wheelchair users. All airlines provide a transport chair or basic wheelchair for the interim period and will place the private wheelchair in the aircraft hold.
When embarking on a long distance flight with one or more stops or where the wheelchair user has to change planes be prepared or ideally these should be avoided where possible and direct flights taken where possible. When choosing a seat an aisle seat is most probably the most comfortable to allow for more space.
Electric wheelchairs on aircraft
If you use an electric or power wheelchair and wish air often wito take it on holiday with you then you will need to inform the airline, there are specific rules that have to be followed due to the batteries. Make sure the wheelchair batteries are secure. It may be necessary to remove them and store them in another container while the wheelchair is not being used. Some electric mobility porducts require a certain amount of disassembly to make them suitable for travel. Again here a temporary wheelchair with assistant is provided by most of the major airlines. If you find yourself in smaller countries or in the developing world please do not take this for granted. Many of these rules go out of the window !
What to do in case of loss or damage to your mobility equipment
In the unlikely event your wheelchair or powerchair is lost or damaged, you are required to complete the Property Irregularity Report (PIR) at the airport. Please do keep a copy of the PIR for future reference. It is essential to complete this process as soon as possible, always within seven days from the date of the original PIR and to monitor the progress of its processing. EU legislation requires all EU airports to provide temporary replacement of damaged or lost mobility equipment, albeit not necessarily on a like-for-like basis unfortunately. Once you have completed your PIR at the airport, request a temporary replacement. Airports cannot refuse to comply with your request and will be in big trouble if they do.
Final tip !
Pre-notify the airline of any assistance you require as early as possible - ideally when you book and always 48 hours before your flight. Remember: it is illegal for airlines to charge for pre-notification.For a sucesful, stressfree (well almost) trip all it takes is some careful planning a cautious attitude and alittle help from others. It really is a lot easier than it used to be and the level of facility at most international and national or internal airports is very good for any one with mobility issues and wheelchair users. Good luck !