July 2016

Summer is always a favorite time for families to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Schools are out and work schedules tend to be lighter.  I am always awed by how many places and things one can do on vacation that can be educational as well as recreational.  Traveling with a child who has a disability can be challenging.  BUT, those challenges can be eased if you prepare in advance.

I mostly travel by car because I enjoy the freedom that this affords me.  I can take my time, stop where I like, eat wherever I like and get to my destination on my schedule as opposed to a pre-set schedule.  However, I have travelled with my daughter on planes, trains andboats.  And with some pre-planning, we were accommodated and I was able to take her everywhere we wanted to go.  My daughter is mobile but can't stand in lines for too long and cannot be rushed when getting from one place to the other.  Moreover, she needs to be guarded when utilizing stairs and escalators.

The American with Disabilities Act mandates that businesses that are accessible to the public must provide accommodations for people with disabilities.  An example of such a public place is a museum.  Most everywhere you go these days, you find a museum of some kind or the other.  Of course, Washington DC (we are so fortunate to live here!), has a myriad of them.  If you are taking your disabled child to a museum you will find that you can generally get around and partake in most of the exhibits without hindrance.  Isn't that wonderful?  I heard that many other countries are less accommodating!!

For travel by plane, train and boat, I suggest that you alert the carrier to your child's special needs well in advance.  In most cases, the carrier will allow you to pre-board with your child, provide you with accessible seating and assist in any way they can.  Last year, I had to travel to Orlando on business and had to take my daughter with me.  When I made my reservation, there weren't that many seats left on the plane and my daughter and I had to be separated.  I called the airline and explained our situation.  I was immediately upgraded to the next level in seating and given two seats side by side.  I was asked how else the airline can assist me in making my trip easier.  Also, last year, I travelled to New York City by train.  We were less accommodated on that trip.  However, when I called to complain, the ADA representative informed me that I had to call three days in advance of my trip and spell out the specific accommodations that my daughter required.  I was informedthat my daughter's needs would be met as much possible.  Though not the best answer, I still find that workable. 

If your vacation journey includes an amusement, I think you will find that your child will be well accommodated.  My daughter wanted to go white water rafting recently.  She did not require special accommodations for that trip but I noticed that one of the gentlemen in our group was disabled and needed a walker to get around.  The white water rafting company helped the gentleman get on the bus, assisted with his walker, helped him dis-mount and provided him with his walker.  Staff carried him into and out of the boat and he got to enjoy an activity that he probably never imagined he would get to enjoy.  In talking with him about his experience, I found out that he had requested assistance when he made his reservation.  It's as simple as that!

So, if you are reading this post from the comfort of your home while wishing you could take your child on an adventure, but fear that the adventure would not be a pleasant experience - don't.  Plan your trip and ask for assistance every step of the way.  More than likely, you will get all the help that your child needs and your trip will make a beautiful memory that your child will cherish for a long time. 


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