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Tips for Air Traveling with Disabilities from Paralyzed Veterans of America



Traveling with disabilities is not always easy. The Paralyzed Veterans of America realize this and have put together a list of tips to help air travelers with disabilities.

With some of the year’s busiest travel days coming up, and new government research finding that one out of seven Americans has a mobility disability, Paralyzed Veterans of America is trying to help things go smoothly. The organization encourages air travelers with disabilities to plan ahead to avoid injuries, damaged wheelchairs and other common problems. Air travel issues are the number one complaint Paralyzed Veterans of America hears from its members.

“For all travelers, the key is planning ahead, and if you have a disability, that’s even more crucial,” said David Zurfluh, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We suggest calling the airline at least a week before your flight to make special arrangements. Also, take advantage of the TSA Cares helpline 72 hours before your flight to get assistance with security. It also helps to arrive at the airport two to three hours before your flight.”

The organization also recommends that travelers with disabilities attach written instructions to wheelchairs and scooters so airline personnel can stow them safely. Most airlines even have forms on their websites that passengers can complete and bring with them on the day of flight. Also, bring a small toolkit with spare parts in case of damage and check in with a flight attendant before landing to discuss exit plans. A full list of tips and accessible travel resources are available at pva.org/travel.

Paralyzed Veterans of America has been a vocal advocate for accessible air travel. Recently, the organization helped with passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 302). The new legislation includes a “bill of rights” and an advisory panel for passengers with disabilities, as well as revised TSA screening procedures for people with disabilities. The law also requires domestic airlines to report damaged and lost wheelchairs and other assistive devices. Next steps on these provisions will likely be announced in the new year.
“Paralyzed Veterans of America will continue to advocate for accessibility in air travel and all public spaces, whether that’s on Capitol Hill or in the courts,” said Zurfluh. “We are here to help veterans, but better accessibility benefits all people with disabilities.”

Paralyzed Veterans of America is also challenging the Department of Transportation delay in providing accessible restrooms on more flights. The organization recommends that travelers continue to check pva.org/travel for updates and changes to travel requirements and resources. There is also a place on the site for travelers to share their stories, to help the organization’s advocacy efforts.


Tips for Air Travelers with Disabilities

  • Make airline reservations as early as possible and be specific when discussing needed accommodations.
  • Call the airline a week in advance of flight to confirm special arrangements.
  • Call the TSA Cares helpline 72 hours in advance (855-787-2227) for assistance with security.
  • Arrive at the airport two to three hours ahead of your flight.
  • Attach written instructions for folding and stowing to wheelchairs and scooters.
  • Bring the owner’s manual for your chairs and equipment. Share with airline staff so they can see how to properly dismantle and reassemble your property.
  • Bring any removable parts such as seat cushions, side guards and wheels on the plane with you.
  • Keep all baggage tags and receipts in case an item needs to be tracked.
  • Inspect all equipment carefully upon arrival and immediately report damage before leaving the airport.
  • Bring small toolkit with spare parts in case of damaged equipment.
  • Pack medication and essential medical equipment in a carry-on bag.
  • Check pva.org/travel frequently for information on changing laws and resources, and to share your travel story.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis. 

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

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