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TSA Tips for Air Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions – 057

If you are flying to your Disney destination with a disability or medical condition and have concerns about TSA security requirements, this episode is for you!

TSA_Disabilities

 

In this abbreviated episode, Kathy shares a valuable resource for  air travelers with disabilities and medical conditions in the Tip of the Week segment, as well as a touching thank-you letter written by the grateful parent of a child with multiple disabilities who received kindness and consideration from the flight crew during their recent Southwest Air flight.

Tip of the Week:

One of the most stressful aspects of modern air travel is the security screening process. This is especially true for travelers with disabilities and certain medical conditions. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s official website offers a wealth of information for travelers who wish to prepare themselves for the security screening process.

Transportation Security Administration – Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions

Travelers with disabilities and medical conditions can call TSA Cares, a toll free help line (1-855-787-2227) with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. The TSA recommends that passengers call the help line at least 72 hours prior to travel.

Travelers may also request a Passenger Support Specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares hotline. Passenger Support Specialists receive specialized disability training provided by TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement.  Training for Passenger Support Specialists include how to assist with individuals with special needs, how to communicate with passengers by listening and explaining, and disability etiquette and disability civil rights.

The TSA website offers specific information for travelers who:

TSA_service dog

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Many thanks to one of our listeners for sharing (with permission) a heartfelt thank-you to Southwest Airlines, written by the parent of a child with multiple special needs:

Sunday, December 28, 2014
Thank you Southwest Airlines
S. and I want to say thank you to Southwest Airlines, and specifically, the pilots and crew of 12/27’s flight 2748 from Las Vegas to Portland. They went above and beyond last night to help (our son) and us get home after a long, rough day.

By the time we boarded our last flight of the day, (our son) was tired and raw. We’d been traveling for 12 hours. During our three hour layover in Las Vegas, (our son) was over stimulated by all of the slot machines on the concourse, and he was stressed because he couldn’t understand that kids weren’t allowed to play those video games.

The minute we took our seats on the plane, (our son) started to escalate. He didn’t want to be on the plane. He definitely, didn’t want to have to stay in a seat belt.

I won’t say he was yelling at the top of his lungs. But if you’ve never heard how loud that is, you can be forgiven for thinking he was. He alternated between saying that he didn’t want to be on the plane or in the seat belt and yelling “I want milk!” (The first time he’s ever fixated on that.)

We boarded early and his tantrum continued well after everyone was seated. His yelling could clearly be heard throughout the plane. After about 5 minutes, one of the flight attendants came by to see if there was anything we needed. We asked for milk. Unfortunately, she said, they didn’t carry any milk on the plane. But she came back a couple minutes later with some water.

A couple of times, she came by and just quietly kneeled next to our seats. The way she handled it was perfect. She was clearly present and attentive but gave us the space we needed to work with (our son). At one point she asked, “Is he special needs.” I nodded, “Yes.” And she walked off to talk with the crew.

A few minutes later, I had started to think about everything that would be involved in removing (our son) from the plane, physically carrying him past all of the slot machines in the concourse and getting a hotel for the night.

I saw one of the pilots coming out of the cockpit and walking towards us and thought that we would certainly be asked to get off the plane and try again tomorrow.

Much to my surprise, the pilot stopped at the row in front of us and talked to a man just in front of (our son’s) seat.

The man must have complained to the flight attendants a few times. Because when the pilot approached him, the man said, “This situation is intolerable.”

The man must have asked to have us removed from the plane, because the pilot said, “That child is going to Portland tonight.

The man repeated, “This situation is intolerable.”

The pilot said, “Have some compassion.” To which the man replied, “I have compassion, but this is intolerable.”

The pilot simply looked at him and said quite firmly, “That child is going to Portland tonight.” His message was quite clear.

For three hours, we had been trying to keep (our son) on this side of a complete “stripping his clothes off meltdown”. By that point we were harboring our own doubts about whether we were going to make it. The pilot’s message simultaneously quieted the man and gave S. and me the support and strength we needed to keep working with (our son) so we could get our family home.

A few minutes later, just as (our son) had started to calm, our flight attendant returned and handed us a pint of milk. “The captain went up and got this for you,” she said.

Wow.

I don’t think (our son) knew where the milk came from. He seemed as surprised by its appearance as we were. The milk was just the distraction we needed to convince (our son) to take his meds. And the milk calmed him as much as the meds. Before too long he was stretched out between us with his seat belt on, watching a video. And a few minutes after that we pushed back from the gate.

Once he was calm, he did a fantastic job throughout the flight. He was a model passenger, We made it to Portland, and made it home with only a minor detour as (our son) decided he needed go shopping in the PDX airport. (He couldn’t understand why dad wouldn’t buy him that suitcase at Brookestone. It was green and it was “perfect”.)

So thanks Southwest. Thanks for sticking by (our son). Thanks for giving us the time, and space and support to work with him and settle him down. And thanks for the milk.

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See? There really are some good people left in the world!

Thanks for sharing that letter, it was just what we needed to hear!

And thanks for listening,

 

~ Kathy

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The Law of Attraction and Air Travel with a Power Wheelchair – 044

airplane-sunset-300x217

 

Kathy discusses special-needs Disney travel and the Law of Attraction, plus air travel with a power wheelchair on this “solo flight” episode! 

There’s no guest this week, so as Mr. Incredible would say, “you’ve got me monologuing!” I’m acting on one of the takeaways from Podcast Movement and giving you an actionable tip about keeping a healthy attitude towards travel with additional challenges by observing the Law of Attraction. In a nutshell: stay positive so you don’t attract negative stuff!

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This episode is sponsored by Amy at Up and Up Travel, specializing in helping families with Special Needs and Disabilities plan and create lasting magical memories , and by Scooter Vacations, the only Orlando scooter rental company to provide concise weight ratings to ensure a 12-15 hour theme park ride time at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or Sea World.

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One of the best things about the Special Mouse Podcast community group on Facebook is that it gives listeners a chance to ask travel questions of, and give valuable insight to, other members of the group. It’s especially helpful to hear from experienced Disney travelers who share your particular challenges. Recently we had a question that I thought would make for an excellent show topic so, here we go:

Tricia asks:  Hi everyone! It looks like our next Walt Disney World trip is going to be a little more special than expected — my sister-in-law and our niece are going to join us! Our niece has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair. We’re not worried about her once we get to WDW, but has anyone had any experience with flying with a wheelchair? Will the airline let her stay in her chair for the flight, or will he have to transfer to an airline seat and check the chair in the baggage hold? Thanks!

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate all airports and airlines operating within the United States to be fully accessible to disabled travelers and for their assistive equipment. With few exceptions, power chair users should expect to receive these accessible services:

  • Wheelchair accessible parking near the airport terminal
  • Shuttle service to parking lots, airport terminals, and/or hotels
  • Access to  ticket kiosks, baggage check areas, security checkpoints, etc.
  • Accessible restrooms throughout the terminal
  • Complimentary wheelchairs for passenger use, as needed
  • ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps and/or mechanical lifts
  • Preferential pre-boarding and priority seating
  • Storage for power chairs, scooters and other devices
  • Assistance with luggage, boarding and deplaning

It is my understanding that travelers who use wheelchairs, whether motorized or not, are required to transfer to a seat on the plane and check their motorized wheelchairs as baggage. The airline may provide a folding wheelchair to help squeeze through the narrow airplane aisle.

Special Mouse listeners chime in with their advice:

Paula writes: “She can stay in the chair until boarding. They will gate-check the chair at no charge to her. I would take off anything that is removable and carry it on with you (no charge for that either). I would also take a picture of all sides of the chair. I’ve never had anything happen to mine, but it is always better to be safe than sorry!”

Tracy writes:  “Call the airline before your flight date to talk about their procedures and what you need to do when you get to the airport. Ask where you need to check the chair.

Once you get to the airport, you will fill out paperwork asking several questions about the chair such as color, weight, type of batteries, etc. You should note any damage or wear and tear when checking the chair in.

Take pictures of the chair before you get on the flight.

Take anything off that is detachable…seat, foot rests, headrest, etc. Stow these items inside the plane with you.

Give them instructions about how you want the chair to be treated. Bill has a custom back and we tell them specifically to NOT detach the back. I got some of the blank luggage tags at the airport and wrote, “Do not remove back” and placed them on several parts of the chair.

Know how to turn the power off and on and how to disengage the motors to be able to put the chair into manual, they might ask you how to do this. We don’t mind if the airline keeps the power on to get the chair down on the tarmac; Bill turns it down to the lowest setting. Some people prefer to have them not use the power but some power chairs are extremely hard to push in manual so we don’t do that.

If the person is unable to walk there are aisle chairs to help. I am unsure how much the flight attendants can help since I am able to lift Bill and put him in a seat.”

(The answer is, no. Flight attendants are not required to assist you with transfers to either your seat or to the restroom. And in truth, you wouldn’t want untrained individuals assisting with transfers because they could hurt either you or themselves in the process. – Kathy)

“You will be one of the last people of the plane. I gather our belongings including all the detachables and place them just outside the plane door. When the chair arrives they will be ready for me to get Bill and go, but I take time to look over the wheelchair to make sure everything is okay. After re-attaching everything I place Bill in the chair. Once we are clear of the gate Bill makes sure that the chair drives correctly.”

Matthew writes: “I would add a few more things, as I have had my chair damaged when I went to Disneyland and Disney World. Trust me, you don’t want to get to the parks and have a power wheelchair not work. Take the control/joy stick off when she boards the plane, also take the cushion as she may be able to use it in the plane or you can put it in the overhead compartment. Dis-engage the drive motors when she gets out of the chair, it should have a lever on each motor.”

From wheelchair.com: It is very important to know how to disconnect the power from the batteries when you get to the aircraft. Locate the cable and mark each half of the connector with yellow tape. Practice separating and reconnecting the connectors. This may keep them from pulling your batteries out of the chair. If you cannot disconnect the joystick on your chair model, you may want to consider bringing along some bubble wrap and packing tape to protect it and any other areas that are likely to become damaged.

“When they bring the chair to you, look it over before you accept it. I have had damage done to part of the frame of the chair that I didn’t see, but my daughter did. So due diligence is needed when flying.

The airlines will ask what the chair weighs and also what type of battery it has. I would recommend having the information before you get to the airport. Always check in with the gate personnel when you get to your gate, as they will need to know if you need an aisle chair and what they can do to help you get to the seat, and the information about the chair. It can become stressful flying when your use a power wheelchair, but if you just do these few things and remember to have fun, you will make it much easier. I have found out that the more I fly, the easier it gets and the less stressful it becomes.”

From sath.org (The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality): There are two types of batteries used in motorized wheelchairs: wet acid batteries or dry cell (gel) batteries. If your wheelchair is older and has a wet acid battery you should check with the airline, as a leaking battery inflight can be dangerous. It will be necessary for baggage handlers to remove the battery and place it in a special container. This requires that you be at the airport at least three hours before departure.

Most modern power-operated wheelchairs have some form of dry cell safety battery so that they can be carried without risk of damage to the aircraft. However, it may be necessary for baggage handlers to disconnect the leads from the terminal and to cap them to avoid shorting. This may take some time, so you will have to preboard. It may be necessary to transfer you to a special aisle wheelchair in the air terminal, and be prepared for the fact that there may be a delay on arrival before your chair is available.

The airlines are responsible for ensuring that your battery is reconnected and that your chair is working on arrival at your destination.

Regarding the weight of your power chair, this is very important information because airlines have varying limits when it comes to weight. Each airline should be able to tell you whether the weight of a particular model wheelchair falls under the limits at the time of your ticket purchase.

In the event of a problem with airport or inflight personnel, you should require them to contact the Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO), who must always be available and willing to deal with your grievance. They cannot refuse. However, to avoid problems, make sure that you let the airline know your needs as early as possible. Also, make sure you have adequate insurance to cover damages to or loss of your wheelchair or scooter as well as personal injury.

Under the ACCA, U.S. airlines are responsible for all repairs to damaged wheelchairs. However, if the chair is lost or damaged beyond repair, the airlines are only responsible for the original purchase price. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know both the purchase price and the replacement cost of their assistive devices and to be aware of the difference between these two figures. If the difference is substantial, you may want to carry additional insurance with a high deductible to cover this gap.

It’s also important to remember to report any damage to your wheelchair immediately. In most cases this means before you leave the airport. The airline may deny a claim if they feel it is not filed in a timely manner. Additionally, under the ACCA, airlines are not required to respond to complaints that are more than 45 days old.

If you are unwilling to risk damage to your power wheelchair there is another alternative — if possible, don’t bring it!

Skip writes: “I cannot fly commercial with the power chair. We take the Convaid stroller on commercial flights.”

The bottom Line: Do what is best for you!

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Links:

How to Travel by Air with a Wheelchair – sath.org

Air Travel Tips for Power Wheelchairs – wheelchairtraveling.com

On a Wing and a Prayer: Protecting Your Equipment – barrierfreetravel.net

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These were some valuable tips! If you would like to join our private group on Facebook, email me at specialmousepodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks for listening!

~ Kathy

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Tips to Make Your Flight Less Stressful When Traveling with Prescription Medications

Here are some tips to make your flight less stressful when traveling with prescription medications:

prescription-bottles-and-pills

1. Make sure you take enough medication for the duration of your stay — and then some! Bring copies of your prescriptions with you, just in case.

2. Pack your medications in their original bottles. The bottles should have your name, your doctor’s name and pharmacy on the labels. Liquid prescription medication is permitted on all flights. Make sure that it is in its original package.

3. Make sure that the caps are tightly closed, and place the bottles in re-sealable plastic bags so the screeners can see them easily. (It also helps if the bottle opens and the pills fall out!) Do not put any other items in the bag. Any liquids or creams should be in different bags in case of spillage and possible contamination.

4. Place medications that require refrigeration in an insulated cooling bag. You might be able to get ice on board to keep it cool if it is a long trip. Label the outside with your name.

5. Put your medication bag in your carry-on luggage. If possible, put it in the bag that fits under your seat, as opposed to the overhead bin. In some cases, the airline may ask the on-board staff to store your medicines and syringes during flight. Keep your medicines, syringes, and supplies together in a small travel case to make passing them to and from the flight staff easier with less chance of losing medications or supplies.

6. If you are traveling to another time zone, you want to take your medication at your normal time. If your medication needs to be taken at a specific time during your flight, inform the flight attendant in advance that you will need some water when that time comes.

Wishing you happy and safe travels!

~ Kathy

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Autism Trip Report: First Visit to Walt Disney World, 2003

Kathy shares memories and tips from her family’s first trip to Walt Disney World. We’re going way back to September, 2003, when accommodations were easy to get, Fantasmic was scheduled nightly and the hot dog rolls at Casey’s were “real!” Ah, the good old days! Mentioned in this episode are planning for a WDW vacation, character interactions: face characters vs. fur characters, Cinderella’s Royal Table, parade and fireworks viewing tips, items to include in a “sensory” bag, dealing with aggressive birds, airplane travel with autism, and much more.
 
The Special Mouse Tip of the Week concerns Magic Bands and guests with Sensory Defensiveness.
 
Congratulations to listener Josette Smith for correctly guessing the identity of “Mickey” in the new tip of the week bumper — it’s John Saccheri aka The Big Fat Panda! Visit John’s awesome YouTube channel, bigfatpanda.com.
 
This episode of Special Mouse is brought to you by Amy at upanduptravel.com
 
Connect with the show @SpecialMousePod on Twitter and via the Special Mouse Podcast Facebook page.
 
Thanks for listening!

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