A Reliable Guide to Plan Vacation with Accessible Transit
With the winter weather right around the corner many people want to plan a trip to somewhere warm and sunny. Everyone has a bucket list of places they would like to visit in their lifetime. Planning a vacation can be difficult and time consuming for abled-bodied individuals but it takes a bit more thought when people with disabilities want to take a trip. Travelling with a disability needs to accommodate accessibility requirements in order for people with disabilities to enjoy their vacation!
Here are some tips and tricks to help plan an enjoyable vacation:
Research & plan your trip: “It’s important to research and gather information about your trip before you decide to go. Using a travel agent or transportation company as a resource can ensure all of your needs are met. For example, if you have specific needs such as information in an alternative format, ask the travel agent or transportation company what they have available to meet your needs (for example large print pamphlets or an electronic format). It’s important to voice your travel needs. Services vary depending on where you’re visiting. Ask questions and compare answers, this will allow you to have control over your trip’’!
As a traveller with a disability, you should feel comfortable and not face any obstacles while travelling, or how or on which fare. It is important to plan your trip ahead of time and know how to ask for assistance when needed. Here are some steps you can use:
- Have a few possible destination options from your travel bucket list in mind or as the travel agent for suggestions;
- “Determine your needs;
- Research information before you make decisions;
- Identify which travel and transportation companies can meet your needs; and
- Get written confirmation about your accessibility arrangements when booking your travel”.
Canadian standards for accessible transportation when travelling within Canada:
Canada has set up regulations for accessible transportation for people travelling with a disability. Accessible transportation companies who assist people with disabilities need to follow the Canadian accessible transportation regulations. “The Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations” require transportation companies to train their employees on how they can best provide services to those travelling with a disability.
Travelling outside Canada: “Travel standards and rules do not always apply outside of Canada. In some places, travelling with a disability is accessible but in many other places it is not very accessible. You will need a passport, as it is an essential document for international travel, but in some countries you may also need a visa, health certificate and proof of vaccinations. If you use a service animal, you should ask ahead about needing an international health certificate and proof of vaccinations for the animal. If you need to have any medications with you, ask how they will be handled at security checkpoints. Some products sold over the counter in Canada may require prescriptions in other countries, including the United States. You may not be able to bring your medications into the country without a prescription. It’s important to ask what you can and cannot take with you”.
Check out what other’s experiences have been with international travel. What are the best countries for accessible transportation from their experience and what countries would they avoid.
Implementing your travel plan: Once you have planned your trip and made your reservation, make sure to mention your disability and the services you need. You can arrange assistance for any point along your trip, such as:
- Mobility aids: “Many transportation vehicles have limited space to accommodate people travelling with a disability. Some companies require up to 48 hours notice before travel, especially if you use a power wheelchair, scooter or another type of mobility aid. Some transportation companies may not be able to accommodate large mobility aids. If this occurs the company should inform you of alternate arrangements. When your planning your trip, ask these questions:
- Can I board with my own wheelchair? Are there tie-downs for safety?
- Can mobility aids be stowed on board, or must they be checked?
- Is there an on-board wheelchair?
- Can the on-board wheelchair get in and out of the washroom?
- Which seats are accessible? (For example, movable armrests, proximity to the washroom, close to the entrance)?
If you require ground transportation to or from the terminal, it is advised you arrange this is advance. A ground transportation company can easily transport folding wheelchairs, walkers and other small mobility aids. If your mobility aid is too large and the company cannot accompany you, they are expected to offer an alternative at no extra cost”.
- Medical clearance: When travelling medical clearance isn’t usually needed. When travelling with a disability, you do not need to disclose the details of your disability, but there are exceptions. “For example, if you use a wheelchair or scooter or require an oxygen tank, you may need to discuss your disability with the transportation company your using. Be clear on exactly what services you need and ask about what services are available”.
- Service animals: When travelling there shouldn’t be a charge for your service animal. “You may need to confirm with the company providing your transportation that your service animals has been trained for its role, show the company its training certificate and to ensure that your service animal is properly harnessed. You can ask the company to make sure there is enough floor space for your service animal to remain at your feet. Check to make sure you know about the different regulations for your service animal when travelling, especially to another country.
Vacation time!: You’re vacation has begun! You’ll be at your destination soon! There are some issues that could arise along the way, starting with your ride to the terminal. If you aren’t travelling with friends or family, checking ahead for information about parking areas, drop-off and pick-up areas and other accessible transportation services. “Terminals provide this information by phone or on their websites. You should plan your ride ahead of time”.
- Navigating through the terminal: “Getting from the terminal to the boarding area can be challenging. Boarding areas can be far away. There may be long lines at the check-in counters and security checkpoints”. Here are some ways to get assistance while travelling:
- Finding assistance: “Inside large terminals, there is a help desk where you can find information and ask for help. Now some terminals have automated information kiosks. They are expected to provide assistance to those travelling with a disability. If you arranged for a friend or family member to assist you through the terminal ahead of time, an employee that will provide your escort with a temporary pass through security zones will escort you”.
- Checking-in: At the time of check-in, “confirm that you will receive the services you requested. Bring the document that confirms the services you requested in case anything isn’t clear. You can ask the staff to assist you through the terminal all the way to your seat. If you have a service animal, ask to be guided to an area where it can relieve itself, if needed”.
- Mobility aids: Depending if your using a wheelchair or other mobility aids, the transportation company you’re using may need time to prepare properly before the trip. “Between check-in and boarding, you may need to transfer to a boarding wheelchair. You may ask to delay this if necessary, ask for help to make your way to the boarding gate. You may ask how your mobility aid will be stored. If your travelling by train, the company your using may ask you to transfer to a smaller wheelchair if your mobility aid won’t fit into the rail car. Trains also have limited storage and not all trains can store mobility aids. You may need to transfer to a seat, or take another train if your mobility aid is too large”.
- Security screening: You may be required to go “through a security screening process depending on the type of travel you’re using. Screening officers may want to see your boarding pass, and may ask to see any prescriptions you need to bring on board. In Canadian airports, it is under the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) officers who screen passengers entering the secure zones and boarding areas. Wider mobility aids may not fit through screening areas, and some passengers with disabilities need to avoid metal detectors. There also may be special procedures for service animals”.
- Boarding: “Transportation companies offer travellers with disabilities a specific time for them to board before other passengers. This ensures you have time to settle in your seat before other passenger’s board. If you wish to pre-board and have an invisible disability, identify yourself to an employee since they might be unaware of your needs”. Here are examples of protocols for boarding different modes of transportation. Check into the boarding protocols in advance so you know what to expect during your vacation adventure:
- Air: Airports have covered bridges between the terminal and plane. Some airports require passengers to go “outside and use a staircase to board the aircraft. If you cannot use stairs or need help, let your transportation company know when you’re making your reservation”.
- Rail: “If you need assistance, at least 48 hours before your travel is needed, the railway company will help you at the ticket counter and to board the train. Larger stations usually have a crewmember available to help you if you made a request ahead of time. In the passenger car, some aisle seats may have movable armrests to make it easier to get into and out of seats”.
- Ferries: “Ferries often have two or more decks that are connected by stairs. Some have wheelchair-accessible elevators. If you need assistance, ask the crew for help”.
- Buses: “Many buses have lifts or ramps for boarding and allow you to travel with your mobility aid. Other buses have low-level floors that allow access from the curb, other buses may not have boarding devices. If you need assistance, let the transportation company know at least 48 hours in advance. The transportation company will ensure that an accessible bus service meets your needs”.
- Arrival: “You have arrived at your destination! Now it’s time to collect your luggage and exit the terminal. You can ask staff to assist you from your seat through the terminal. Many large communities have a variety of accessible transportation such as taxis, buses and rental cars. The best thing to do is arrange your transportation ahead of time.
Most importantly, relax, consider the travel to and from your destination as part of the whole vacation adventure! Here’s to vacations that are great fun and filled with lasting memories for all!
Accessible vacations for people with disabilities:
For accessible transportation travel ideas checkout these links:
- Adaptive Travel
- National Sports Center for the Disabled
- National Ability Center
- Flying Wheels Travel
- Accessible Journeys
- Tourism Whistler
- Accessible Cruises
We hope this guide on accessible transportation gives you all the tips/tricks as well as resources you need to have a fun-filled vacation!