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Know Your Rights: Traveling In A Wheelchair

It has been over two decades since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was officially enforced by the government. This law ensures equal access to wheelchair users in terms of employment, education, public and private places, communication, and transportation.

Despite this, the majority of service providers – especially in transportation – do not seem to acknowledge this law. In fact, there had been numerous reports of airlines refusing to accommodate people with disabilities. And just this February of this year, a taxi driver purposefully switched his meter on before a wheelchair user properly boarded his vehicle.

These unfortunate events lead us to conclude that a great deal of public awareness and advocacy is needed. Not just for the stakeholders, but for the service providers in general.

This blog provides information on the rights of passengers with disabilities. After all, being informed is a universal right.

travel wheelchair
Traveling in a wheelchair.

Transportation Services Are Not Allowed To Refuse You

Unless if you could potentially endanger the health or safety of other passengers, then you should be welcomed aboard like any other passenger.

However, take note that not all public utility vehicles (PUV) are wheelchair-accessible. For instance, a non wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) may refuse to transport you because they cannot accommodate your needs. It is always recommended to travel with a WAV as both drivers and vehicles are specified to cater to disabled persons.

Same goes with traveling by airplane. Flight attendants may ask about your ability to perform activities such as boarding the plane or walking through the airport. Admitting that you have difficulty performing such actions will still not prohibit you from boarding the plane. Instead, airline personnel must inform you how the safety of all passengers would be affected by your presence on the plane. (Disclaimer: we highly recommend you to call the airlines ahead of time if you are traveling with a stretcher, hook-up oxygen during the flight, or other devices that require special batteries. The airlines may deny you travel for failing to tell them ahead of time.)

TL;DR: Disability should never be a hindrance. All persons with disabilities are entitled to receive equal treatment, and that is covered by the law.

You Don’t Have to Pay Extra

There’s a common misconception that just because you have special needs, all your services cost a bit more expensive. Some transits overcharge disabled individuals for the additional services that come with their disability.

The truth is, it’s the other way around: PWD’s must be assisted without additional charge. For instance, in taxicabs, wheelchair users are entitled to board the vehicle before the taximeter is turned on.

For air travelers, if you choose to request for assistance, the airline must provide it to you, free of charge. This applies even to your wheelchair — they must accept it as checked baggage with still not an extra fee. It is under the Air Carrier Access Act, which states that every domestic and overseas flight with the US as its origination or destination are obliged to provide certain accommodations without additional costs.

They Are Required To Assist You

Both public and private transportation vehicles are urged to aid handicapped individuals in providing their special needs and assistance.

For example, every airline must help you with boarding, assisting you to the lavatory, open and identify food packages, and carrying items for you. However, you may decide not to accept the airline’s accommodation. They cannot force someone to accompany you if you don’t want to. It is entirely your choice, but they should always be ready to help.

For more information about handicapped air-travelling, please visit this link.

Every Transportation Agency Are Required To Install PWD-Friendly Equipment

The U.S. Department of Transportation published a few vehicle regulations in assisting Americans with disabilities. These are the following:

  • Platform barriers to prevent wheelchairs from rolling off-board
  • Durable handrails
  • Wheelchair ramps or bridge plates
  • Specialized seatbelt for disabled
  • Priority seating for disabled
  • Proper and clear doorways and pathways in subways
  • Lighting ramps on doorways and pathways
  • Audio loudspeaker drop-off warning boards for visually and audibly impaired

By knowing your basic rights, you will be able to avoid frustration, hassle, and wasted time and money.

In an unfortunate situation where your rights are being violated by transportation agencies, there are steps that you can take to resolve the issue.

Always ensure your safety and satisfaction in every trip that you take. It’s always great to know your rights and laws!

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