When you're newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, most likely traveling by air is not an issue. It tends to become an issue when you start having mobility issues and require the use of a wheelchair. However, my experience with the airlines has been very positive as most airlines tend to be very accommodating.
There are a few pointers that are important to remember:
- If you're bringing your own wheelchair, be sure to tag it with your name, address, and phone number.
- If you do not have your own wheelchair, the airline will assist you with their own wheelchair but usually only up to the airplane gate, where you will have to abandon the wheelchair as it usually seems to be needed for others and you cannot remain sitting in it. If you need to use the restroom prior to boarding, getting someone to take you then becomes an issue! Suggestion: Travel with your own wheelchair if possible.
- Ideally, you should request a seat preferentially close to the entry of the airplane without having to walk all the way to the back of the airplane. I try to get a seat usually where I do not need to have a long distance to the restroom or exiting the airplane.
- If you anticipate needing assistance to get seated, request a lift-chair transport to be seated. This needs to be requested prior to boarding.
- The use of a scooter is ideal because you can drive your scooter right up to the door of the airplane and at that point the baggage handlers take it down to the luggage compartment and upon arrival to your destination, the scooter is brought back to the airplane door where you can scoot away!
- Upon arrival at your destination, if you are outside the U.S. and you are planning excursions using mobility equipment such as a wheelchair, a scooter, a walker, or a cane, you will need to investigate if there is access to enter a facility, such as an elevator or a ramp other than stairs. In many countries, handicap access is not available. We are fortunate that it is available in most places in the U.S. due to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
- When making reservations at a restaurant or for any event, ask about access to the facility if using any type of mobility equipment. Do not assume that it is accessible.
- If you are planning to go on a cruise with a wheelchair, scooter, or a walker, it is highly recommended that you request a handicap suite for the additional space in the room and especially in the bathroom. It can make your voyage more enjoyable!
- Having impaired mobility should not preclude you from having a pleasant experience, but it is highly recommended that you plan. Bon voyage!
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