By Michael Rock:
It is no secret that air travel can be extremely daunting for people with disabilities. Those with mobility impairments have reported losing their wheelchairs or scooters or even having them returned damaged. While more legal protections for such passengers have emerged in the past year, their effectiveness is limited.
Those with invisible disabilities can also experience a wide variety of their own challenges with air travel, some of which are exacerbated by airline staff who aren’t willing to take their conditions seriously. Advanced planning, being open about one’s needs and active communication can allow such travelers to have smoother flights.
Flyers with developmental disabilities, such as autism, have unique options at some airports and certain airlines. Delta offers tours at Minneapolis and Atlanta Airports to help flyers get an idea of what to expect on their travels. There is also a multisensory room in the Atlanta airport. American Airlines, United, and JetBlue offer similar tours.
In Houston, Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports offer the Access Houston Airports app featuring short picture stories of the airport, a checklist of things to expect while traveling, and communication icons to those who are less verbal indicate their needs.
Though there are ample challenges when flying with a disability, there are things you can do and new programs designed to help address them.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.