Five tips for disabled travelers

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Living with a disability doesn’t have to mean staying home. It just means traveling takes extra preparation. Here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Start with your doctor

Before you head out the door, talk to your primary doctor—or a travel medicine specialist. They can help you figure out what vaccines and medications you’ll need. If you can’t take certain meds or vaccines on your travels, you can work together to determine alternatives.

Your doctor can also help you make arrangements for care overseas if needed. You can also talk about avoiding illness while you’re away.

2. Talk to your airline

U.S. airlines are required to make accommodations for people with disabilities. This is true for foreign airlines flying to and from the United States too.

Contact your airline before you travel. That’s the best time to arrange for a wheelchair, assistance around the airport and accessible seating on the plane. Your airline may require notice at least 48-hours in advance for special accommodations. It may also want you to check in at least an hour before your flight.

3. Be smart: Bring a carry-on

Lost luggage happens. Pack your medications and items like syringes in your carry-on bag. That way, you’re prepared no matter what. Keep in mind that any assistive devices you carry on can’t be counted against your carry-on baggage limit.

It’s also a good idea to bring instructions for assistive devices like wheelchairs. A copy of this info can help you and airline personnel ensure these important tools get put back together correctly.

4. Know your way around TSA

When going through TSA screening, keep in mind:

  • Disabled travelers don’t have to remove shoes. However, agents will perform additional screening on footwear.
  • Walkers, crutches, canes and other mobility aids must go through x-ray screening. Agents will also screen wheelchairs and scooters. Let them know if you need to be reunited with your device immediately.
  • If you can’t stand or walk, an agent will pat you down while you’re seated.
5. When in doubt, ask

No matter where your travels take you, you’ll find more than a few friendly faces. Don’t be afraid to ask for information or help. Airline crews, hotel clerks and cab drivers are often happy to help.

Traveling with specific conditions

Certain health conditions can create unique travel challenges. Visit our Travel health topic center for more information.

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