Don't Let Your Wheels Stop You!

Reprinted from PN January 2012

If you have a new disability and haven’t yet traveled by air, the following information may help you.

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Just because you can’t walk doesn’t mean you can’t fly. People who cannot walk board planes privately and first. This is one way the airlines help you fly with dignity. 

The Pre Flight page at has pictures of an aisle chair and how it is used. It also offers information about how to prepare your wheelchair for a safe flight.

If you have a new disability and haven’t yet traveled by air, the following information may help you.

Take Your Seat

Non-walkers are taken to the end of the Jetway first. There they are transferred to an aisle chair. This is a chair on wheels that will fit between the seats on each side. You are strapped in and wheeled to your seat, then assisted into it. Make sure you have an aisle seat with an arm that raises or lifts off. This will make a side transfer much easier and comfortable.

Your chair or scooter will be taken below with the luggage. There is no charge for durable medical equipment, so don’t worry about that. Before the door of the aircraft is closed for takeoff, ask a flight attendant to make sure your chair/scooter has been loaded.

When you land and everyone else has deplaned, you will be helped off the plane. It will be just the opposite procedure as loading. The seat arm goes up, the aisle chair is brought on board and placed next to you, you’re helped onto it and assisted off the plane to your wheelchair/scooter.

Then you are on your way. The crew is typically last off the plane.

Prepare Your Chair

If you have swingaway foot pegs, remove them from your chair and place them in a carry-on bag. If your control comes off easily, pack it with the foot pegs.

If you cannot easily take the control off your chair, turn it toward the seat or down, or place a couple of paper cups over it with some bubble wrap. This tells anyone coming in contact with your chair that this is a very sensitive area.

Lower your headrest.

If your mobility device has a footplate, a small bungee cord will hold it in place.

The Pre Flight page referenced above has signage to put on the back of your chair to let attendants know how to put the chair in freewheel and in the lock position. Think about printing these pages on bright paper that is enclosed in a durable plastic holder and attached to the back of the chair with two zip ties.

Bathroom Challenges

Within the United States, bathrooms on planes are not accessible. If you are going to Europe and are on an American 777, an accessible bathroom with an aisle chair is onboard.

Ladies are at a real disadvantage here, but men can use a urinal bottle at their seat. Wear elastic-waist pants and have a small blanket to put over your lap. I made a cloth holder for my husband’s urinal bottle. Straps on it let it hang from the side of a wheelchair. It can then be taken to the bathroom to empty and rinse. If you don’t want to cath, try a condom catheter.

On the Ground

Many locations in the U.S. have wheelchair-accessible cabs. Numerous places also have wheelchair-accessible vans. These are usually about $100 per day plus pick up and delivery.

Hotels have accessible rooms. Some offer zero-degree-entry pools and water wheelchairs. Many times you can rent a Hoyer lift or beach wheelchair.

The Gift of Travel

Travel dreams can become realities. If you need financial help with those dreams, get people involved. Birthdays and Christmas are typical gift-giving times.

Let those who give you a gift know about your travel dreams. Instead of giving you something material, they could donate to your travel account. If you want a cruise, have them order gift certificates from the cruise line.

Contact: Kristy Lacroix, Certified Accessible Travel Specialist, 603-382-3596 / /


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Don't Let Your Wheels Stop You!


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