Jul 12, 2017

Traveling with a neurologic condition is not impossible.


Many travelers have their own system for folding and storing their wheelchair before flying. Karen Jackson asks to meet the person in charge of cargo to show him or her how to fold the chair, which reduces the chances it will be broken at her destination. She also wraps the joystick in bubble wrap, and takes the seat cushion with her on the plane. If you have any problems with your wheelchair, or any other travel concerns, look for the “chief resolution officer,” advises Jani Nayar, executive coordinator of the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality. Since travel can be more fatiguing than your normal routine, consider using assistive devices such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, even if you don't use them all the time, says McClure. You can request one at airports and often at recreation sites such as Disney World. For airports, request a wheelchair when you book your flight, says Nayar, then call the airline 48 hours ahead to be sure your request has been documented. You'll need to check in at the counter rather than at a ticket kiosk in order to meet the attendant with the chair.

Being in a wheelchair does not guarantee that you'll be able to cut a long security line, so for US airports consider applying for TSA PreCheck at http://tsa.gov/precheck. This prescreening program from the TSA requires an online application, a brief in-person interview, usually at a local airport, and an $85 fee. You may have to wait a few weeks to get an interview so apply early. In February 2017, 97 percent of TSA PreCheck members waited less than 5 minutes, according to the TSA, compared to 20 minutes on average for the regular line—which can be longer during busy times.
If you're traveling internationally, consider a Global Entry card from US Customs and Border Protection. It costs $100 for a five-year card but includes TSA PreCheck privileges and a likely shorter wait at Passport Control when you return to the United States.
If you're unable to get out of a wheelchair for the airport security screening, call TSA Cares at 855-787-2227 or email TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov at least 72 hours before your flight, advises Mike England, a TSA spokesman. This special office can answer questions about screening and medical supplies, including liquids, you can take with you. You can also ask for a passenger support specialist to meet you at the screening checkpoint to help with the process. And go to http://bit.ly/TSA-SpecialProcedures for information on what you can carry on board.
All this planning may seem daunting, but getting each piece in place increases the chance for a more enjoyable and seamless trip, says Jackson. And the extra effort is worth it, she says. Dr. Giesser agrees. “Don't let disease limit you,” she says. “If you possibly can, get good medical advice, plan accordingly, then go ahead and get on the road.”
© 2017 American Academy of Neurology

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