Traveling with a Disability
An estimated 37.5 million people in the United States have a disability. If you have a disability and are considering international travel, a little advance planning, including a pre-travel visit with a travel medicine specialist, can enable you to see the world and return home safe and healthy.
A travel medicine specialist can help you determine what vaccines and medications you’ll need for your trip and give you advice on preventing diseases spread by insects or through food and water. If you have an immune-compromising condition or take certain medicines, you may not be able to get some vaccines, or additional vaccines may be recommended.
Your travel medicine specialist can also help you arrange to receive care overseas, if you need it. Check with your insurance company to see if they will cover care received outside the United States. If not, consider buying supplemental travel health insurance.
Airlines must make accommodations to give people with disabilities access to the same travel opportunities as people without disabilities, unless doing so would endanger the health or safety of other passengers. Airlines must provide access to the aircraft door, an aisle seat, and a seat with a removable armrest. Airplanes that have fewer than 30 seats are generally exempt from these regulations, but those that have more than 60 seats are required to have a wheelchair on board. Wide-body airplanes with 2 or more aisles must have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.
If you have a seeing-eye dog or other service animal, the airline must allow it to accompany you. However, service animals are subject to quarantine regulations and may not be allowed to travel to all countries. They are also subject to US animal import regulations on return.
These regulations apply to US airlines and to flights to or from the United States by foreign airlines. If you plan to fly within a foreign country or between countries while abroad, check with the foreign airline to find out what accommodations are in place for people with disabilities.
The Department of Transportation has a toll-free hotline for more information about the rights of air travelers with disabilities: 800-778-4838.
Cruise ships also have obligations regarding access for travelers with disabilities, but you should check with your cruise line before booking to make sure any needed items, such as medical oxygen or a wheelchair, will be available. Some cruises cater to travelers with special needs, such as dialysis patients.
- Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality
- Mobility International USA
- MossRehab ResourceNet
- New Horizons Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability (US Department of Transportation)
- Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions (Transportation Security Administration)