Take charge through your plan
From the information you have gathered, it's time to build your travel plan and book it through your agent, directly with the transportation company or online.
When you make your reservation, mention your disability and what your service needs are. Ask your transportation company about what other services they may have. You may also check their Web site for information.
If you need any services from your transportation company, give them as much notice as possible. Companies are expected to arrange most services for you when you give them at least 48 hours notice. With less than 48 hours notice, they should make a reasonable effort to help you.
Making Arrangements to Receive Help
You can arrange to receive help at several points along your journey, such as:
- checking in;
- moving through the terminal;
- boarding, connections and disembarking;
- storing and retrieving baggage;
- moving to and from washrooms;
- transferring from a personal wheelchair to a seat, including using a boarding chair; and
- moving through customs and immigration zones.
You may want a friend or family member to help make your way through a terminal. Ask ahead of time if you can get a temporary pass to get your escort through the secure zone to the boarding area.
Note: In cases of unmanned stations, such as remote railway stops, a traveller may have to make their own arrangements for boarding. Ask your travel agency or the railway about alternatives.
You should note that transportation companies are not required to provide assistance with:
- eating and drinking;
- taking medication;
- using washrooms; or
- communicating without a pen and paper or without speaking.
If you need this help, your transportation company may require you to travel with a personal attendant. It may offer a discount or even a free ticket for your attendant.
Note: You should get confirmation in writing about the services you will receive. This will help you to verify arrangements before you leave and again along the way.
You will also have to plan on how you will get from home to the terminal and from the final terminal to your destination. In larger communities, there is a variety of accessible transportation available from taxis and buses to rental cars. Smaller communities may have fewer choices. You may need to reserve ahead of time to make sure your ride is available to get you from point A to point B.
Many transportation vehicles don't have much free space. Some companies may require you to tell them at least 48 hours before your travel if you use a power wheelchair, a scooter, or a similar mobility aid. They may not be able to carry large mobility aids. If that happens, the company should be able to tell you about other arrangements that can be made to transport your mobility aid.
When you plan your trip, ask the following questions:
- Can I board with my own wheelchair? Are there tie-downs for safety?
- Can mobility aids be stowed on board, or must they be checked in? Be prepared to offer the weight and measurements of your mobility aid(s).
- Is there an on-board wheelchair?
- Can the on-board wheelchair get in and out of the washroom?
- Which seats are the most accessible (for example: moveable armrests, close to washroom, close to entrance)?
Note: At least one tie-down should be available in each train to allow one person to remain in their wheelchair, provided it can fit through the doorways and aisles. Not all trains have enough space for a large wheelchair. Also, if you need sleeping accommodations, it is best to book early as there are usually a limited number of accessible rooms on overnight trains and ferries.
If you need ground transportation to or from the terminal, you might want to arrange this in advance. A ground transportation company can easily transport folding wheelchairs, walkers and other small mobility aids. If your mobility aid is larger and the company cannot accommodate you, they are expected to offer an alternative at no extra cost.
You do not usually need medical clearance to travel. You also do not need to discuss the details of your disability, but there are exceptions. For example, if you use a wheelchair or need oxygen, this can involve more discussion about your disability. An airline may want you or your doctor to talk to its medical department about travelling with a personal attendant, using oxygen or requests for additional seating due to a disability which may include obesity. Be clear on exactly what your service needs are and ask about the services you can get.
Note: Airlines have rules about how they handle oxygen supplies, and may not allow yours on board.
When travelling in Canada, there should be no charge for your service animal. Your transportation company may ask you to confirm that your service animal has been trained for its role, to show its training certificate, and to ensure that it is properly harnessed. You can ask the company to make sure that there is enough floor space for your service animal to remain at your feet. Check to make sure you know about the different regulations for your service animal when travelling, especially to another country. For more information resources, see Section VII: Useful information sources.
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