Traveling with a disability can be a daunting experience, especially for the novice traveler. However, a little preparation and some knowledge can make the experience of getting to your vacation destination easier and less stressful.
For those who are traveling by air this vacation season, be aware that TSA has increased their security screening procedures. It is recommended that the passenger with a disability arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before departure to accommodate for additional screening should it be deemed necessary. Keep in mind that TSA procedures vary by airport, but below is a list of general expectations when going through the security process.
1. Many airports utilize full body scanners. Being cleared through the use of this device deems additional screening, including the pat down, unnecessary.
2. If the airport does not have a full body scanner, the traveler can expect a pat down and swab screening. The pat down has become more thorough in the past few months which has caused both anxiety and embarrassment for some travelers. Private screenings are always available, and if you are uncomfortable it is okay to request one. (It should also be noted that you have the right to have a friend or family member accompany you to the private screening area.) The agent may take a piece of cloth and rub braces, crutches, wheelchairs, prosthetics and your hands for explosive residue.
3. Prosthetic wearer, please know that you do NOT have to remove your prosthesis (or the shoe on your prosthetic) to be cleared by TSA. If the request is made, you may ask to speak with the supervisor and politely point out the concern.
Packing an appropriate carry-on bag can eliminate a lot of stress and potential obstacles for the traveler. It is recommended that the following items be included in the carry-on bag:
1. For amputees, pack additional socks of various ply (keep in mind that changes in altitude can cause the volume fluctuations)
2. Prescription medications and over the counter pain medication
3. Lotion (these handy bottles assure that you are always within the size restrictions allowed by TSA)
4. Hand sanitizer to facilitate donning your prosthesis (again, be sure to keep the bottle small and within the one ounce limits)
5. All adapted equipment which may not be easy to locate at your destination should your luggage become lost
6. Name and phone number of your pharmacy and physicians, should you require refills or information on your trip
7. Handicapped parking hang tag (so that it can utilized while at your destination) Packing some simple amenities can make staying away from home more comfortable and accessible.
You might want to consider bringing a suction cup grab bar and folding shower stool. Although most hotels provide a shower chair upon request, the requests are honored on a first come/ first serve basis and there is often no guarantee that one will be available when you check in. In my experience, sanitation of the shower chairs provided by some hotels has been questionable and I simply feel more comfortable bringing my own compact version.
Taking some extra time to prepare can help thwart a vacation catastrophe. Most importantly, have a great time and don’t let your disability keep you from enjoying the adventures of live. Instead of being limited, strive to become an Unlimiter! Do you have a vacation tip that you’d like to share? Email me or post it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!