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Travel Providers Strive to Meet the Needs of Disabled Travelers

May 16, 2008
For people with disabilities, the world of travel is broadening its scope to welcome and encourage those who, although physically challenged, are not being hindered by their disabilities. The U.S. Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986 prohibits airlines from discriminating on the basis on disability and affects accessibility features in terminals and aboard aircraft operated by U.S. and foreign airlines operating to, from and in the United States.

More than ever, travel providers are seeking ways to meet the needs of travelers with disabilities. Recently, Detroit's Northwest Airlines, Wayne County Airport Authority and Checker Sedan, the official luxury sedan service of Detroit Metro Airport, completed training sessions with staff from Leader Dogs for the Blind of Rochester. The group met specifically to learn how to meet the special needs of the blind and disabled when they're traveling.

"The Wayne County Airport Authority is totally in support of the efforts of Leader Dogs for the Blind to help our contractors and tenants - airlines and ground transportation providers - to be aware of the needs of the disabled," said Michael Conway, public affairs specialist at the airport. Positions, such as sky caps, who provide a high level of customer service and assist travelers, play key roles in helping travelers with disabilities reach their gates on time or receive the assistance they require.

Checker Sedan, which provides luxury sedan transportation at Detroit Metro, participated in the daylong session. The transportation provider has two converted vans with a portable ramp and wheelchair tie downs that can accommodate those who use power wheelchairs or wheelchairs that don't fold and won't fit in a vehicle's trunk.

"Our hope is that we can train these companies so they can be aware of what they are doing," Stafford said, "It's not hard at all to provide service to a disabled passenger; it's just a matter of information."

Some examples of disability etiquette include:
- Talk to the person, not to the person he or she is with.
- Call a person by name, not by a disability.
- Ask a disabled person if he or she needs help and how.
- Don't put a blind person in a wheelchair just "because it makes it easier for you to help them."
- Do not talk more loudly to blind people; their hearing is not impaired.

"Basically, you treat a person with a disability with respect and dignity as you would any other customer," said Stafford.

The hope is that a little basic information provided by Leader Dogs will go a long way. Travel providers usually find that travelers with disabilities appreciate the efforts of airports and companies who are familiar with the most beneficial ways to assist disabled passengers, if necessary. Those improvements not only make things better for disabled people, but can actually improve service for anyone.
About the Author
Soave Enterprises is a privately held, Detroit-based company with holdings in dozens of companies. Its substantial financial and managerial resources bring strength to these entities.
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