Comparing Modes of Transportation Through the Eyes of a Wheelchair User

People with disabilities are enjoying traveling more than ever before. Whether for work, school, vacation or any reason, this positive trend has served as a wake-up call to travel agencies, hotels and transportation providers that they need to accommodate disabled travelers as well as provide special services or their competitor across the street will.


This post’s purpose is to add a helpful guide to the already phenomenal amount of information on this topic that is available. Though the topic is very broad, this post will take on the perspective of someone who uses a wheelchair and what their options are regarding all sorts of travel methods, including automobile, train, ship, and airplane.


Federal law –- the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) -– is supposed to guarantee equal treatment for all travelers within the United States. While disabled people have the ADA, common sense, the strength of numbers and overwhelmingly positive public sentiment on their side, the real-life difficulties that can arise are still all too common for wheelchair-bound travelers.  These difficulties include inadequate services or facilities, prejudicial thinking, extra hassles, and sometimes even additional charges; while auto insurance quotes online are legally barred from being higher for the disabled, not every travel-related industry is as effectively regulated.


The good news is that there are more options than ever before for folks who need a wheelchair to enjoy life.


If you have a choice of destinations — for instance if you’re going on vacation — try not to feel constricted in your options. Instead, feel enthusiastic and free to choose the place you really want to go, then begin the planning phase.


When shopping for airfare and accommodations, review their services regarding wheelchair access. But don’t do business with just any airline. The best airlines will not only provide full access, but you should expect to fly in relative comfort.


The next vacation-planning step can be a bit trickier, especially if you’re planning on visiting another country as some don’t have laws mandating wheelchair accessible hotels and accommodations. However, as disabled travel and vacationing are booming, chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for without too much searching. Ground-floor lodgings or a hotel with elevators are key here.


Also, check with the hotel or lodging-provider that the doors are wide enough and that they have bathrooms that are handicap-accessible.


Alternatively, you may want to travel long-distance within the US and enjoy driving with a disability. This is one of the largest and most naturally beautiful and varied countries on earth, after all. One of the easiest, most comfortable, convenient and even fun ways for wheelchair-bound folks to experience this is the time-honored act of hitting the open road for a road trip.


Thanks to improving and more cost-effective technology and the wise forethought of many car makers, there is a plethora of vans, SUVs and even all-terrain vehicles that allow less mobile travelers to get out and see the sights and safely enjoy the open road. The benefits here versus flying –- not counting the fun possibilities that a genuine road trip can provide –- include that you don’t have to worry about the extra hassles such as lugging your stuff onboard a plane.


Travel by train is another option. Rail travel is generally highly accessible all across the world. For domestic travelers, Amtrak is the main provider and they only request that travelers with special needs inform them at booking –- give yourself at least 24 hours here –- and you also receive a 15% discount. Early arrival is key so they can help you board the train and settle in. Online resources provided by Amtrak regarding accessible travel services also prove useful.


For international rail travelers, it is sometimes advisable to purchase the tickets in person at least a couple of days in advance to be assured that ticket agent knows your needs and can provide assurance they will be met. And don’t forget to ask about the widely available discount! Arrive fairly early before departure time and inform the info desk that you are there, and help with boarding and settling in will be provided.


There are many cruise lines operators with ships designed to accommodate those with mobility-needs so you can have a relaxing and enjoyable vacation along with peace of mind. Careful planning and selection of your cruise line’s accommodations is, again, key here. Some important things to look for when searching for a good cruise operator is if their wheelchair accessible cabins are well-located, if the pool has a lift or if shore excursions are fully accessible.