Useful travel advice for disabled students going abroad
Disabled travellers need to do some planning before they go on a trip and pack accordingly. It is wise to write down a checklist before you leave, so as to make sure you have it all covered. Search for travel providers who can accommodate your specific needs and make sure you contact various airlines to see what sort of care and help they have on offer.
You should also confirm in writing or over an email what you have agreed on, once you are about to book your travel arrangement of choice. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you need a seat with a moveable armrest? Request special seating, if required.
- You may need extra space to store crutches, for example, so do ask if this is available. If the seat you need is already assigned, you may, by law, request that it be reassigned to you.
- Arrange ahead of time to have your wheelchair checked as priority baggage.
- Is an on-board wheelchair available?
- Do you need room on the plane to store a walker?
- Is help with check-in available?
- What ground transport is available to and from the airport and between airports and gates?
- Where is special parking for handicapped located? Maps of terminals can be obtained ahead of time from the airport, a travel agent or from the internet.
Before flying out, make sure you do your research in terms of finding spares abroad for your equipment. If you can’t find any, you better take a spare just in case something goes wrong. Write down your requirements in both your target language and English inside a notebook, with a copy of your medical information in case you are asked to supply it, either to the airline in question or later on in immigration. It will also prove to be very useful over your year abroad, should you need it.
Once on board your flight, it’s important to know that airlines do not generally provide services to help with eating, drinking, taking medication, or help inside a washroom.
A medical attendant may receive a reduced fare, but medical documents are needed as proof when booking your flight. Check into airlines that offer permanent medical cards (called a FREMEC - Frequent Traveller Medical Card). You are not required to pay extra for any disabled services; however, hookup for a respirator and stretcher travel are not services airlines must provide. Don’t take anything for granted.
After arrival, check your wheelchair or electric equipment before you leave the airport. Airlines are responsible for their repair, but you must deal with any problems at the airport on arrival.