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Have Wheelchair, Will (Try to) Travel: New Website is Forum for Athletes

10 Feb, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
AirAccess30 Website Aims to Provide Platform for Individuals with Disabilities to Report Problems, Successes with Air Travel

Those who plan sports events for individuals with disabilities have something new in their toolbox. And with the Paralympics in Rio looming large on the horizon, it’s about to get a lot of use.

Paralyzed Veterans of America has launched a new website, allowing people with disabilities to share their experiences regarding air travel.

The website, www.airaccess30.org, is named in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (AACA), which prohibited discriminatory practices in air travel against people with disabilities. However, despite progress, travelers with disabilities say they continue to encounter significant barriers in air travel, such as damaged assistive devices, inaccessible lavatories and in-flight entertainment and delayed assistance.

The site serves as a no-cost, no-membership-fee-required forum, allowing individuals to write about their experiences, both good and bad, as well as to post photos that would apply. And as sports events for individuals with disabilities continue to grow in size and number, it’s looking like an invaluable resource for planners to use when making arrangements.

“We hope that this site will provide a forum for people with disabilities to share their air travel experiences and help raise awareness as we continue to advocate for improved access in air travel,” said Al Kovach Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans. “We encourage everyone to visit the website, share their stories and stay up to date on any air access improvements.”

The site currently contains stories from several individuals who have experienced problems, as well as those who want to praise a specific airline for making their work in making travel hassle-free. Stories also contain tips and words of advice for those either planning their own travel, or planning travel with others.

Athletes with disabilities who are traveling to participate in sports events may bring equipment an airline doesn’t typically expect. They may also be traveling with assistance dogs, may require help getting through an airport if delays result in tight connections – and any number of other issues. In addition, if a flight is cancelled and passengers need to be shuttled to another airport, it can cause serious problems since not all vehicles are wheelchair-accessible. One traveler who posted to AirAccess30 reported having that experience, and waiting for hours until airline personnel listened to his suggestions for how to move him from Point A to Point B.

“Transportation is only as good as its weakest link,” he noted in his posting.

Those who want to share their stories can go here.

The site is designed for travelers with disabilities, meaning athletes will find it useful, but so will others since adaptive sports events tend to draw supporters and spectators who also have disabilities.

The website is endorsed by a number of groups, including the United Spinal Association, Easter Seals, National Disability Rights Network, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Council on Independent Living and The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

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