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Thread: Int'l Travel w/ Chair?

  1. #1

    Int'l Travel w/ Chair?

    I'm in the US, and I'm a part-time chair user. I'm going on trip to England & France next summer. I'll be flying of course, but it will be the first time I've flown w/ a chair (one other flight I've been on, the chair was provided for me on loan at my destination, and used the airport chairs on the way there.) I am partially ambulatory but my disorder fluctuates by extremes, which means I can go from walking, perfectly normal-seeming, to leg movements that make me struggle to stand. Right now, out and about, (I drive on good days, and I can feel the movements coming so I can sort of...prepare, and I walk in small places w/ my assistance dog for support, but larger places I use my chair, mostly just sit and push, but sometiems I walk behind it and use it as a walker) Anyway, I'd like to know what exactly I need to to do to insure my chair gets to my destination safely, and on time. I really hope it can be stored in the plane, not put with luggage...? (Last time I flew my luggage was damaged, and I don't want that to happen w/ my chair) I'm also trying to anticipate accessibility conditions in London and Paris, on public transport, and with hotels, destinations, etc (with a large group of high schoolers, all besides me AB, who I'm supposed to stay with at all times).....

    Are there any modifications or pieces of equipment I should add to my chair, like, given different environmental factors? For one, I have small castors and I've heard France has some cobblestones...so, like, would larger front casters be in order? Or like, knobby tires? I'm hoping to get a freewheel or something similar, as well, to help with off-road activities, which I can't do at home in the chair, as it is. My chair's a Zra, a rigid, w/ folding back, is this a good chair for air travel and public transport, or is a folder in order?
    Last edited by voxina; 12-03-2012 at 08:16 PM.
    Tourette's Syndrome - motor tics of the legs, feet and back, which can make it difficult or impossible to walk

  2. #2
    a zra should be fine. larger castors do tend to be better on uneven surfaces (maybe 5x1.4?) but not compulsory. i would probably do that myself though... tell them you hsve a chair when you check in, and tell the agent how much assistance you need. for example, i always say i need s lift onboard as far as my seat. (its normally unnecesssary and sometimes even problematic if you try to tell them earlier, even of they say you should). get a 'gate claim' ticket, which they will afix to your chair. they may also give you a computer lsbel, like the ones that go in your luggage. this is good, means that your chair is listed in their system. then stay in your chair all the way as far as the plane. as you are getting onboard, remove cushion and anything that might fall off (store on the plane), brakes unlocked, and hand it over to one of the agents. do not remove the wheels, and dont let them either! when you land, they should bring the chair back to the door of the plane. (NB: some airports will not do this, notably heathrow in london and cdg in paris. they insist on you being pushed in an airport chair and collected your own in baggage reclaim. you might get away with it, but theres no way of knowing.)

    buses in uk can be difficult, it was on the news tonight. apparently they have the right equipment but many are either broken or have lazy drivers who claim they are. in paris, a lot of the subway is inaccessible. look up online before you go. the tripadvisor forums are a good place to check for specific information.

  3. #3
    Thanks for the advice about the airport! So they won't have it in cabin..but they should take care of it? The only thing is...I don't think I can alter the trip plans at all...it's all part of this tour company, everybody has to stay in the group, which I failed to think through... If I show up in a chair will the bus turn me down? I can walk some, to get on, and could get my chair on board in the seat beside me, that is, if they'd allow it. I'm hoping our grup will have like, a chartered bus or something so it won't be explaining over and over to some new driver or something.
    Tourette's Syndrome - motor tics of the legs, feet and back, which can make it difficult or impossible to walk

  4. #4
    For Europe I switch to 0 deg camber, just because I seem to encounter narrower doorways there.

    There are a lot of threads on flying with a chair. The short answer to your question about the chair being stowed in the cabin is that the Air Carrier Access Act requires that the airline stow 1 manual folding chair in the cabin if a) the passenger pre-boards and b) the chair fits.

    Don't let the word "folding" scare you - I've had my Top End Terminator (a rigid box frame chair) stowed in the cabin dozens of times.

    At the same time, don't obsess about cabin stowage. I've had my chair stowed under the plane bazillions of times.

  5. #5
    Ask that they put the "Aircraft delivery" tag on your chair, otherwise when you arrive it may go to the baggage claim area with other luggage and this is where it can be damaged the most.
    With the tag they'll bring you your chair at the door of the plane.

    Fold it yourself and remove all the removable parts like side guards, cushion.

    Regarding public transportation in London and Paris: London subway is accessible, especially since the Paralympics. Subway in Paris is not accessible but buses are.

    The freewheel is a much better solution than larger casters for uneven surfaces.

    I'm French, send me a PM if you want to know more.
    Last edited by Big; 12-04-2012 at 10:48 AM.

  6. #6
    Thanks guys. That makes me feel better about the trip. Espec the airport thing. I've heard the overseas flight planes are like, humongous. I bet they can store it onboard... If not that's really cool that they'll bring it to the plane for you. I was worried over using some behemoth airport chair and struggling through Heathrow to find my chair.... (Bad experience w/ luggage finding at Atlanta Airport.)
    Tourette's Syndrome - motor tics of the legs, feet and back, which can make it difficult or impossible to walk

  7. #7
    At some point prior to landing (maybe 20-30 minutes), ring the call button. Remind the flight attendant that you have your own chair, and that you will need it at the jetway. Do not leave the aircraft until your chair is there. Do not let anyone tell you to just wait in the jetway, or just take the airport's wheelchair somewhere. The crew cannot leave the plane until all the passengers are off, so as long as you are physically ON the plane, they are motivated to help you.

    It is your right, under both US and European accessibility regulations, to have the chair brought up to the door of the plane. They're better about it in the US than they are in Europe, especially France. Be friendly and polite, but firm, if the need arises. It probably won't.

  8. #8
    Voxina, something I just thought now.
    If you go to visit museum in Paris, be aware that there can be hours long waiting lines, as a wheelchair user you will avoid them but your group may not be allowed to follow you, so think about buying your tickets in advance. for instance, check Le louvre web site.

  9. #9
    Some chairs can be stowed in the cabin. Typically folding chairs. Check out the Federal Air Carrier Access Act. It is very specific and different than the ADA for your flight portion. Also keep in mind that in both Paris and London hotels my define accessible rooms differently and all rooms are typically smaller. Also many hotels have reception that is not on the first floor and many lifts(elevators) are smaller than you may be used to in the states. I have been to both cities if you need any hotel advice....
    Disclaimer: Answers, suggestions, and/or comments do not constitute medical advice expressed or implied. Please consult your attending physician for medical advise and treatment. In the event of a medical emergency please call 911.

  10. #10
    i flew to heathrow in june... i took my manual right onto the plane to my seat( usually i have to xfer to aisle chair, but huge plane, and it fit.... they broke it down and stowed it in a closet on board
    - Rolling Thru Life -

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