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Know Your Rights When Traveling With Disabilities

Get familiar with your rights, so you know the requests and accommodations you’re entitled to under the law.


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Traveling is an industry that is ever changing. Whether it’s a pandemic like COVID and its aftermath or airport disruption, traveling has required a cautiousness to protect ourselves and our loved ones and flexibility to comply with changing travel restrictions. If you are planning to travel anytime soon, you need to give yourself time to plan, especially if you have certain limitations or needs that must be met. You’ll need to research the best place that accommodates your needs and allows you to have the experiences you want with travel restrictions and safety precautions in mind. Here are some general travel tips for people with disabilities. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may need additional specifications and advice from travel and medical professionals.

Know Your Rights

You have a right to accommodations when traveling. Before you begin planning, get familiar with your rights, so you know the requests and accommodations you’re entitled to under the law.

Countries have varying laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The United Nations lays out laws and acts in several countries. In the U.S., we have the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • ACAA: This act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in air travel. It also requires airlines and airports to provide accommodations, accessible facilities, and training for employees who deal with the traveling public. 
  • ADA: This act mandates the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities by providing enforceable standards everyone must follow. For example, the ADA has standards for accessible design to make things like elevators, amusement park rides, and drinking fountains accessible for all. 

The ACAA also requires all airlines to have a specially trained complaints resolution official (CRO) to respond to complaints. This individual is authorized to resolve complaints on behalf of the airline and must be available by phone or in person during operating hours. If you run into any issues, request to speak to the airline’s CRO.

You can also file a consumer complaint with the Department of Transportation (DOT). However, the DOT encourages travelers to give the airline a chance to resolve the issue first, as they can typically take care of complaints right away.

What Are the Different Categories of Disabilities?

There are many types of disabilities and categories of disabilities that are unique to each individual, but for generalized purposes, here are the main four:

  • Physical: Physical disabilities have the potential to affect someone’s mobility, limbs, or function. Some physical disabilities include (but are not limited to): those who have lost a limb, MS, cancer, and anyone who has to use a wheelchair for a wide range of medical histories.
  • Sensory: A sensory disability affects one or more of the senses. Some sensory disabilities include (but are not limited to): loss of sight, loss of hearing, loss of taste, loss of touch, or loss of smell. 
  • Intellectual: An intellectual disability affects cognitive functioning or neurodevelopmental skills. Some intellectual disabilities include (but are not limited to) ADHD, autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
  • Mental Illness: A psychiatric disability or a disability from mental illness describes mental and emotional impairments that affect daily life and major life activities. Some psychiatric disabilities include (but are not limited to) OCD, depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.

All of these disabilities can affect how you travel and where you go.

About The Author
Brittany Mendez

Brittany has been doing content creation for seven years. She now works as a chief marketing officer at a travel brand focusing on customer experience in the vacation world.