Preparing For Takeoff
Over the course of the last 5 years, I have had the opportunity to fly around the country. It had been some time since I had flown.
I was going to be flying with my scooter and I had read a lot of nightmares other disabled people had when it came to damaged power chairs and scooters. Without my scooter, I am unable to get around. So the thought of it being broken in a flight can be intimidating.
Advice from others on social media
Thankfully the power of social media came to the rescue. I belong to a few online groups that deal with disability and travel. I created a quick Facebook post of my concerns and then I sat back waited for advice.
I was pleasantly surprised that most people have had pleasant experiences when dealing with airlines. Here are a few good bits of advice that I received.
Call the airline ahead of time
The first piece of advice was to call the airline. Let them know ahead of time that you are disabled and will be traveling with an electric wheelchair or scooter. Advise them of any accommodations that you might require.
For example, will you need an aisle wheelchair to board the plane? If you haven’t flown, the airlines have small wheelchairs that can fit down the narrow aisle of an airplane. Unfortunately, this requires an extra transfer which I know can be difficult for some people who are disabled.
I’m lucky in the sense that even though I require assistance with transfers, they don’t cause me extra pain.
Create instructions for dealing with a power chair
The second piece of advice was to create a sheet of instructions for your power chair. If possible, try and laminate it so it’s weatherproof.
Also, label the parts of your chair that will require airline personnel to maneuver or move. I also pointed out where my chair should be picked up from.
Most of my scooter is thin plastic that can easily be broken or cracked. Obviously, I didn’t want that to happen.
I also made note of the brake and explained in my notes that it had to be released in order to push it without causing damage. I taped “Brake - please read instructions before moving” by the brake.
Look into wheelchair service in advance
The third piece of advice was to find a Durable Medical Supplier in the city that you are going to. Call them and ask if they service your model scooter or wheelchair.
Find out if they have rentals available in case your power chair is damaged on the flight. This is where social media groups come in handy also. I can post in a group the location I’m going to and see if anyone can give me first-hand experiences on what Durable Medical Suppliers are good and which ones should be avoided.
Planning ahead for damage
Luckily I can say that I haven’t had any issues with my scooter being damaged on a flight. I know traveling with a disability can cause some anxiety.
It’s sometimes hard to adjust to new beds and bathrooms when we are comfortable with our own setup at home. I would imagine deboarding a plane to a broken chair would really put a damper on a trip. However hopefully with some planning, your chair will have a better chance of surviving a flight without any damage.
What are some of your tips?
Which emotional aspect of SMA do you find most difficult?