Stories by Louis Ibah
Air travel can be stressful for any passenger who considers himself physically fit, but when you have to factor in a physical or mental disability, getting from point A to point B by air can indeed become much more frustrating. Globally, airlines know this and they are doing their part to make air travel as comfortable and seamless as they can for every disabled passenger.
Daily, and across several local and international airports, we find persons with physical limitation, mobility limitation or developmental disability, ranging from the inability to see, smell, hear, reason properly, walk, write or use their limbs in any way. And as human beings, they have a right to travel by air for either pleasure and business purposes like every other person. Sadly, while some persons with such disabilities or their family members or friends have braved the odds to get the requisite information to assist them travel by air, there still exist many others who, out of ignorance, feel they were not just designed by nature to fly. That’s a big lie.
Becoming more informed about disabled travel services and disability travel resources will lessen the anxiety that often accompanies disabled travellers and perhaps delete the ignorance many still carry about.
The following travel tips will therefore be very helpful for persons with disability.
Plan your trip well in advance
The first thing to bear in mind is that airlines are always ready to assist any person with disability to fly, provided he or she is not of violent conduct or capable of posing a threat to the safety of the aircraft and passengers.
For international flights, it is adviceable that if possible, always book your travel through a travel agency that specialises in helping people with disabilities. Book flights well in advance and make an effort to call the airline directly or visit the counter to ensure that all disability-related needs will be met. Ask for the name and position of each person you speak with and record this information.
Airlines will always offer first a staff to assist and a wheelchair at the airport, handicap scooter, or any other handicap vehicle to assist the person move from one point to another within the airport, as well as board and disembark the aircraft.
Don’t leave anything to chance
If you can, double-check all the arrangements your travel agent makes. Call the airlines, hotels, scooter, wheelchair, car, RV or van rental companies, medical equipment rental companies, etc., and verify the specifics, especially if you’re traveling in a wheelchair or have any other special needs like oxygen.
Once you are assisted to board the aircraft, quickly tell the flight attendants of any medical problem you might encounter on your flight. Also note the location of the closest restroom before getting seated. Tell the flight attendant if you think you’ll need assistance getting to it during the flight.
You may need or want an aisle seat for easy access to the restrooms. Discuss seating with your travel agent or at the counter prior to getting a boarding pass. Consider varying the lengths of your flights depending on disability-related needs. Long flights may be uncomfortable, especially for people who cannot use inaccessible airplane toilets. Shorter connecting flights may be a better alternative.
Allow at least 90 minutes between connecting flights (or longer if required to pass through Immigration and Customs during a layover) in order to ensure enough time to transfer between gates.
Need for a medical certificate
A medical certificate is generally not required. A medical certificate is a written statement from the passenger’s physician saying the passenger is capable of completing the flight safely without requiring extraordinary medical care.
Simply having a disability is not a reason for an airline to request a medical certificate unless the person is on a stretcher or in an incubator; needs medical oxygen during flight; or has a medical condition, which causes the airline to have reasonable doubt that the person can complete the flight safely, without requiring extraordinary medical assistance.
Special safety briefing
Airline personnel must provide a safety briefing to people with disabilities. All trip information, including the safety briefing, that is made available to other passengers must also be made available to passengers with disabilities.
Airline personnel may offer an individual briefing to a person whose disability keeps him or her from receiving the information presented in the general briefing. The individual briefing must be provided as inconspicuously and discretely as possible