10 Things to Know before Traveling
- Flying the Friendly Skies. Whether it’s for an important business trip or your next family vacation, here’s what you need to know to ensure a smooth flight. The Air Carrier Access Act requires that all domestic and international flights with a U.S. destination or departure point provide certain free accommodations to people with disabilities. Fliers with disabilities aren’t required to travel with another person (unless it’s for safety reasons) or notify an airline about their disability. For more information about your rights as an air passenger with a disability, read the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) air travelers with disabilities There are also guides specifically for passengers with developmental disabilities and those who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. All passengers, including those with disabilities, must be screened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers. If you have questions or concerns about the process, contact TSA Cares by email or phone at 1-855-787-2227, or speak with a TSA officer beforehand. You may want to provide the officer with a TSA disability notification card or other medical documentation to describe your condition. If you experience disability-related air travel service problems, call DOT’s Air Travelers with Disabilities hotline at 1-800-778-4838 (TTY: 1-800-455-9880) or file a complaint online.
- Public Transportation. Public transportation is crucial for people with disabilities to have access to employment, education, health care and activities in their community. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect people with disabilities from discrimination in public transportation services and facilities. The ADA also requires public transit agencies to provide free paratransit services (also called “dial-a-ride”) for people who cannot use regular (“fixed-route”) services because of a disability. Your public transportation provider may provide “travel training” programs to help you learn your way around the system. Check with your local public transportation provider for information about paratransit services in your area. Other transportation choices include accessible taxis or “share-a-ride” programs that use volunteer drivers. If you’ve experience problems with using public transportation services or facilities, call the Federal Transit Administration’s ADA Assistance Line at 1-888-446-4511or email ADAAssistance@dot.gov. You can also file a complaintonline. Visit Disability.gov’s Guide to Transportation or download Easter Seal’s “Everyday Travel Guide” to find tips for public transportation riders with disabilities. For more information about transportation services and reduced fare programs for people with disabilities and seniors, visit the American Public Transportation Association or call the National Transit Hotline at 1-800-527-8279.
- Riding the Rails. Railway transit can be a convenient, fast and cost-effective option for many people. For people with disabilities, there are some important things to know when traveling by train. First, you may be eligible for certain discounts. Also, if you need an accommodation while in a train station or on a train, you should contact your rail carrier before your trip to let them know. Amtrak offers information for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, portable oxygen equipment or service animals. It’s important to remember that rail providers may have different rules for emotional support animals and pets than for service animals.
- Winter Weather Travel. When winter storms hit, it’s important to put safety first, which means travel plans may need to be cancelled or postponed. As winter weather approaches, think of SNOW: “Stay off the roads, Not Out in the Weather.” However, even in the midst of the coldest winter weather, some travel must go on. If driving somewhere in the cold or snow, plan ahead by preparing your car for winter weather. Be sure to follow these winter driving tips, including keeping the gasoline tank at least half full at all times to avoid gas-line freeze up, and driving slowly during inclement weather. In case of an emergency while driving, be sure to keep a winter emergency kit in your car with items including a flashlight, food, water and warm clothing. Public transportation is often still an option during winter weather, but be careful when taking a train or a bus by following safety guidelines and dressing warmly. If you’re planning to travel by air during winter weather, check for flight delays or cancellations and take the proper steps in the event that a flight is cancelled.
- Adaptive Driving and Vehicle Modifications. Learning to drive, or re-learning after a disability or injury, can mean greater independence. You might take an adapted driver training course with a driver rehabilitation specialist or add specialized equipment to your vehicle. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists’ (ADED) fact sheets explain how types of disabilities or health conditions may affect a person’s ability to drive and what changes can be made. Use ADED’s Driver Rehabilitation Provider and Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist search tools to find nearby adaptive driving programs. Check out United Spinal Association’s adaptive driving guide for information on driver training programs, adapting a vehicle and paying for vehicle modifications. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has a helpful guide to Adapting Motor Vehicles for People with Disabilities. Find a dealership for adapted vehicles with ADED’s Mobility Equipment Dealer search tool. When it’s time to purchase an adapted vehicle or pay for modifications, many options for financial assistance are available. State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies may help fund certain modifications if they’re necessary for the driver to get to work. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Automobile and Special Adaptive Equipment Grants help Veterans with certain service-connected disabilities buy an adapted vehicle or modify one. You may also wish to check with your state’s Assistive Technology Reuse program to see if they have adaptive equipment that works for you. For more information, read these tips on funding vehicle modifications or visit the Vehicle Modifications section of Disability.gov’s Guide to Transportation.
- Organizations That Can Help. Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation in Our Nation) is a program run by Easter Seals and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration. Project ACTION promotes access to transportation for people with disabilities, and provides a resource library on accessible transportation topics. Travelers with disabilities can get information on how to find and use accessible transportation, and transportation providers can get guidance on legal requirements and best practices to accommodate riders with disabilities. Recently, Easter Seals and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging created the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC), which will promote transportation options for seniors, people with disabilities, caregivers and communities through technical assistance, information and referral and community grants. The NADTC website is currently under construction, but you can visit their Facebook page and Twitter feed or call 1-866-983-3222 to learn more.
- Pedestrian Safety. Sidewalks and street crossings can be challenging for pedestrians with disabilities, especially when obstacles like illegally parked cars are in the way. During the winter, snow banks add to the problem, sometimes blocking ramps and curb cuts and forcing pedestrians with disabilities into the street. These barriers make it difficult and even unsafe for people to get around. The U.S. Access Board is developing guidelines for “public rights-of-way” that address issues related to accessible signals for pedestrians who are blind, parking for people with physical disabilities and accessibility of streets and sidewalks. The Federal Highway Administration’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program offers a guide on how to design accessible sidewalks and trails. Accessible Design for the Blind works to make travel safer for pedestrians with visual disabilities by providing information on travel training and detectable warnings. Read “A Safety Guide for Pedestrians with Disabilities” and use mobile apps like AXS Map to find accessible routes in your area. Learn how to make your community safer for all pedestrians at America Walks. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Civic Access works to ensure that all counties, cities, towns and villages comply with accessibility requirements of the ADA. You can report pedestrian accessibility issues in your area by filing an ADA complaint.
- Help Paying for Transportation. Paying for transportation can be difficult on a fixed income. Programs such as Charity Motors, Ways to Work and Working Cars for Working Families help low-income individuals and families buy a car or pay for automobile repairs. Many of them are state-based, so contact your local Independent Living Center (ILC) to find nearby help. Paratransit is also a good option for people who cannot use “fixed route” public transportation services because of a disability. Check with your local public transportation provider to find paratransit services in your area. Some local organizations offer free or low cost transportation programs that help people with disabilities and seniors get to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores and community events. Check with your local ILC, Aging and Disability Resource Center or Area Agency on Aging to learn more about programs near you. State Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs provide temporary financial help to low-income families, including assistance paying for transportation to work or job training programs. People with disabilities can save money for disability-related expenses, including transportation, through an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. Watch this video to learn more about ABLE accounts.
- Around the World. International travel presents its own set of considerations for people with disabilities. All U.S. travelers leaving the country should prepare for their trip, understand passport requirements and know how to manage their health while abroad. Students with disabilities who are interested in studying abroad can use the State Department’s students abroad checklists to stay safe and enjoy their international experiences. Once you’re in a new country, accessibility standards might be very different and an unfamiliar landscape can mean challenges to getting around. Wheelchair users may have a variety of concerns, including old city structures, lack of curb cuts and limited or no accessible transportation options. People who are blind will have to learn how to navigate new areas and find new ways of communicating direction. In addition, disability may be viewed negatively or differently because of existing stigma in a particular country. You can download Lonely Planet’s “Accessible Travel Guide” for free from the European Network for Accessible Tourism website to find accessible hotels, restaurants and tourist activities around the world. The “Comprehensive Guide to Traveling with a Disability” offers additional information. The U.S. Department of State’s National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange works to increase opportunities for people with disabilities in all types of travel; read the brochure to learn more.
- Rides to Your Appointments. Getting to and from medical appointments is a critical part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Medicaid funds Non-Emergency Medical Transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to learn more. Veterans with disabilities can use the nationwide volunteer transportation network provided by Disabled American Veterans (DAV) for transportation to VA medical facilities for doctors’ appointments, medical tests and treatment. Use the DAV Hospital Service Coordinator Directory to find contact information for your local program. Often, rural areas have limited public transportation options. Contact your state 2-1-1, Community Action Agency or local public transportation service to find information about rural transportation programs in your community. You can also use the Eldercare Locator or talk to one of the site’s information specialists toll-free at 1-800-677-1116.Your state’s Department of Transportation or Department of Health & Human Services may offer information about local transportation services for people with disabilities and seniors, as well as programs that can help low-income individuals and families pay for their transportation needs. For additional information, visit Disability.gov’s Finding a Ride & Paratransit Services section.
For more information about transportation, please read Disability.gov’s Guide to Transportation. Don’t forget to like Disability.gov on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and use #disabilityconnection to talk to us about this newsletter. You can also read Disability.Blog for insightful tips and information from experts in the community.
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