Sears Tower, Chicago

Sears Tower, Chicago
Photo by: Joel Good (Stock Exchange)

Hello, hello, hello! Welcome back to Disabled Travelers!

As we speak, I’m ramping down from my trip, sorting out the cameras, and making sure everything is re-packed.

I’ll still be in transit for a while longer, so today’s accessible travel post will focus on some general lessons about travel this trip has really highlighted.

This might give you a new view on issues like air travel, disabled hotels, and a few other things disabled travelers and their travel companions are bound to encounter.

So, from me to you, here’s a packet of observations from O’Hare International Airport, Schaumburg, and Chicago.

Despite High-Profile Stories, Airports Aren’t That Bad: Airports throughout the U.S. are doing more than ever for wheelchair users and others with limited mobility, including providing devices and personalized services to help you navigate the terminal. Some disabled travelers who require mobility aids might encounter longer wait times because equipment has to be examined by Transportation Safety Administration personnel separately. But, even in busy airports like O’Hare, I’ve never encountered or witnessed any “horror stories.” Tens of thousands of airline passengers, including able-bodied and disabled travelers, pass through major airports every day without any difficulty.

Airport Accessibility is Better Than Ever for Most: Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act and the high profile consequences of non-compliance, commercial airports have worked hard to create an accessible path of travel in the terminals. More and more is being done to include travelers who face other challenges, too! Many airports are incorporating high contrast signage, Braille, and audible signals for those with visual impairments. On a recent flight, I sat next to a deaf gentleman whose needs were attended very promptly by a Delta flight attendant fluent in American Sign Language.

Potentially Dangerous “Backscatter” X-Ray Machines are Not Always in Use: Experts are still unsure whether new full body scanners used by TSA represent a long term health risk to frequent flyers. The good news? After journeying through two of the busiest airports in the U.S., I did not see anyone actually asked to use these machines. I was ready to vocally “opt out” of this treatment, but it was never necessary. On the other hand, luggage scanners are now full color, faster and clearer than ever.

An Accessible Rental Vehicle is Becoming a Good Bet: In the old days, I might not have suggested a rental vehicle for disabled travelers and their travel companions because it’s difficult to be sure what you need will be on the lot when you get there. These days, I’m ready to reverse my position. A lot of the time, when you go searching for disabled hotels, you find them up to an hour outside the city you really want to be in. Rather than chance public transportation on what become daily journeys, a GPS-equipped, adapted vehicle can give you the comforts of home. Vehicle rental has become so efficient and GPS so easy that it can cut out a lot of hassle and frustration – though it is expensive.

As you can tell, it’s not all doom and gloom for disabled travelers! I like to focus on the positive here in the blog, and I know that can be tough with all the reports of security run amok at America’s airports. I’m concerned about air travel, but it’s important we don’t let these worries keep us from going places! Speaking of going places, we’ll be back with more disabled travel news next week. Can’t wait to visit with you then!


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