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Travel with disabilities: mobility, vision, and hearing

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Travel with disabilities can be a challenge but by planning ahead for the challenges that may be faced with each disability this can be overcome. Here is some tips to help your next flying experience be more enjoyable.

For Passengers with Mobility Disabilities

  • For travel on some airlines, people who do not own a wheelchair, but need to use one at the airport, can request one and assistance from airline personnel.
  • Airline personnel will assist passengers who cannot walk to transfer from a wheelchair to an aisle chair (narrow wheelchair) in order to reach their seats.
  • Be prepared to instruct airline personnel on the best way to offer assistance during the boarding process.
  • Travelers using a manual wheelchair can request that their own personal wheelchair be checked at the gate of the aircraft and be brought to the gate upon landing. It will be stored in the cabin if there is room or in the luggage compartment if not. Two days advance notice may be needing for groups of wheelchair users on the same flight or for stowage of a power wheelchair on a flight with less than 60 passenger seats.
  • Stowage of a folding wheelchair has priority over the carry-on luggage of other passengers, but does not require removal of carry-on baggage of passengers who boarded at an earlier stop.
  • Single-aisle airplanes do not have accessible restrooms, so alternative arrangements need to be made to compensate for inaccessible facilities. For those who may need frequent access to toilet facilities, toilets are available at all points at the airport once through passport control and at the boarding gates, so booking shorter segment flights may help. Travelers may also wish to book flights on double-aisle planes. Airplanes with single aisles and greater than 60 seats can also have an aisle chair on board if requested at least 48 hours in advance. Airline personnel can assist with getting to the lavatory on this aisle chair during flight but are not required to assist to or inside the lavatory.

For Passengers with Vision and Hearing Disabilities

  • Passengers with vision disabilities may ask at check-in to have the assistance of a sighted guide to airport gates or can ask that a gate agent be alerted to their arrival and arrange assistance as needed.
  • If traveling with a service dog, there are specific air travel regulations in place that are summarized on the tip sheet Guide Dogs and Service Animals While on International Exchange. Otherwise download a full PDF document of the 14 CFR Part 382 regulations „Guidance Concerning Service Animals in Air Transportation“ from the Department of Transportation.
  • Air carriers must ensure that qualified individuals with a disability, including those with vision or hearing disabilities, have timely access to information (such as new security measures) that the carriers provide to other passengers. For example, on flights to Washington National (DCA), persons are verbally warned to use the restrooms more than half an hour before arrival since after that point in time passengers are required to remain in their seats. This can be accomplished through written instruction from carrier personnel or alternative formats, such as visual messaging, for Deaf and hard of hearing passengers.
  • For passengers with hearing disabilities, telescreens are provided in most airports and U.S. airlines offer captioned safety videos.
  • For travelers with hearing devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, external component of cochlear implants, and middle ear implants are generally not affected by X-ray inspection, the walk-through metal detector, or the hand-held metal detector. However, if concerned or uncomfortable with going through the walk-thorough metal detector, or are uneasy with having the external component of one's cochlear implant X-rayed, ask for a full body pat-down of your person and a visual and physical inspection of the exterior component while it remains on.


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