11 September 2007
Patrick Horan writes on disability Issues
Patrick Horan is UK National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) trained, holds an MSc in disability management and is Access Officer and Chair of Southwark Disablement Association.
This week I will be talking about air travel. With the advent of the budget airline, air travel has become the prerogative of most disabled people.
The savings made with a budget airline outweigh the advantages of travelling with a name brand airline. It might sound difficult, but if you follow precisely the instructions they give you, you should have no problem, and the advantages of being able to travel for 1p + taxes will make up for any inconvenience.
Make sure you check in early to give you time to change currency, duty free shopping and pass thorough security.
As soon as you book your ticket tell the airline involved that you will require assistance at both ends and you have to tell the budget airline Ryanair as soon as you have a confirmed booking as they will only take 4 disabled passengers on any one flight. Most airlines will carry wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and any medical equipment you may have in the baggage hold for free. You can take a power chair but only if it has dry cell batteries. If you are severely disabled and need help with toileting, the airlines would prefer you to bring your own assistance as the Flight Attendants are classed as food handlers and by law they cannot enter the toilet with you, but they can help you with most other things.
When you arrive at the Airport, contact the special assistance desk that will take you onto the aircraft. You can stay in your own wheelchair until you reach the departure gate. Make sure you ask them at check in for gate delivery of your wheelchair, (which means that your wheelchair will be brought to the gate at your destination airport) and they put that tag on your wheelchair and give you a receipt with the rest of your baggage tags usually stuck onto your flight coupon. Once at the gate you will then be transferred to the onboard (very small) wheelchair. Only use this if necessary, I use the aircraft seats as support to get to my assigned seat. Always ask one of the flight attendants to take your leg rests and cushion and place them in the overhead storage bins above your seat, as there is nothing worse than getting to your destination and finding out you have no leg rests or cushion.
Try and get a seat near the toilets on the aisle seat. If you have any problem with your kidneys, refrain from too much alcohol but drink plenty of water to avoid suffering from dehydration, which is common at high altitude. Keep your feet moving at all times and wriggle your toes (to avoid DVT) especially on long flights.
If you need assistance getting to the door of the toilet, ask in plenty of time. At the other end you will be the last off. Then you will be assisted to the onboard wheelchair or make your own way to the door of the aircraft, where your own wheelchair will be waiting for you or in the case of assistance the destination airport supplied one. The flight attendants will bring your cushion and leg rests to the door, just ask them.
Do not be afraid of taking a trip that involves air travel, just plenty of pre planning will make your trip a pleasant and enjoyable experience. The cheapest route to an airport is Victoria (train) for Gatwick, Paddington (train) for Heathrow and Liverpool St (train) for Stansted..
With an advance booking, you can travel to any of these main line stations with Dial-a-Ride or use Capital Call or Taxicard. All these train journeys are fully accessible.
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