Air Travel and Advocacy
Steph Roach, Owner of Staying Driven,LLC
Air travel can often feel like you’re being featured in an episode of the Jetson’s. It’s ever evolving and often times these newer aircrafts are quite impressive. You can watch your favorite movies, eat snacks and communicate with your loved ones all while flying 30,000ft through the clouds. While this seems like an extremely impressive way to travel, for people with disabilities air travel is often accompanied by a feeling of anxiety and disappointment wondering if their accessibility devices have made it to their destinations in one piece.
As a 33-year-old female born with cerebral palsy, living with a physical disability is the only life I’ve ever known and as someone who has traveled the world independently since the age of 18 there are definitely a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Whether you’ve sustained a temporary injury on the ski slopes, acquired a life altering disability after a tragic accident or were born into this life with a disability; air travel requires a level of preparedness and planning that the majority of the population does not have to think about.
The best piece of advice I could offer anyone traveling who may need any sort of adaptive accommodations is don’t be afraid to use your voice. Advocating for your needs, and making sure your equipment is handled in an appropriate manner is not selfish; it’s a necessity! If you have been using your equipment for an extended period of time, make sure to clearly state your needs and understand that you have the right to have a conversation with the ramp agents. They will be the staff handling your equipment if anything has to be placed under the aircraft.
If you are new to the adaptive community or only have temporary needs for assistance my biggest piece of advice would be to give yourself ample amount of time to request a wheelchair/assistance if needed, to get through security and to make sure you are able to have a conversation with the gate agent if you need any further assistance during your flight.
If you are a passenger who will not have the ability to walk onto the plane you can request an aisle chair for boarding, in flight bathroom trips and landing. People may not be as familiar with accommodating to your needs but, that does not mean they are any less important. Accessibility equipment and assistive devices are often an extension of someone’s independence when navigating life with a disability.
Over the years I’ve found it helpful to run down this check list.
Travel Check List
× When booking a flight check the box “Will need assistance” × Get to the airport at least 2 hours early × If you have a wheelchair or need one find a wheelchair attendant to assist × Go through security pat down × Have gate agent tag any accessibility equipment × Request any assistance needed (Possible aisle chair) × Speak with ramp agent to appropriately handle accessibility equipment × Confirm if you will need your equipment if changing planes
It is imperative that you use your voice and understand that everyone regardless of ability should be able to have an enjoyable air travel experience.