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Nine Myths About Accessible Travel

By Candy Harrington
With the evolution of the internet, information is just a few mouse clicks away. That includes information about accessible travel. An although the internet is a great tool for disabled travelers, there's also a lot of misinformation circulating on-line. With that in mind, here are some examples of accessible travel misinformation recently spotted on-line.

Myth: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the law that covers air travel for disabled passengers.
Fact: The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which actually predates the ADA, covers airline and aircraft accessibility. The ADA does not.

Myth: Companions of disabled passengers are entitled to free flights under the ACAA.
Fact: Airline personnel can require a passenger to travel with a "safety assistant" if they feel the passenger cannot adequately assist with his or her own emergency evacuation. The cabin crew however, usually designates another paying passenger or an off-duty crew member to act in this capacity.

Myth: Wheelchair-users are guaranteed bulkhead seating on airplanes.
Fact: Under the ACAA, people with a fused leg and those who travel with a service animal are the only passengers guaranteed bulkhead seating.

Myth: Making a reservation at a property assures you that the accessible room will be there when you arrive, because you have guaranteed it with your credit card.
Fact: Guaranteeing a room with your credit card only locks you in on a specific rate. Blocking a room sets aside a specific room for a specific guest on a specific date. All accessible rooms need to be blocked.

Myth: All accessible guest rooms have roll-in showers.
Fact: In the US, only hotels with over 50 rooms are required to have accessible guest rooms with roll-in showers. Those with under 50 rooms are merely required to have tub/shower combinations with grab bars.

Myth: All hotels have to have shuttles that are wheelchair-accessible.
Fact: If a hotel provides free airport transfers, they must also provide accessible transfers at no charge. They don't have to own their own accessible vehicle though. They can contract out the service, but they cannot charge extra for it.

Myth: Cruise ships have to be accessible under the ADA.
Fact: Even though the Supreme Court ruled that the ADA applies to foreign-flagged cruise ships that call on US ports, we still don't have any specific access guidelines for them. Those are being sorted out by the US Access Board and the Department of Transportation (DOT). For now, all the access modifications the cruise lines have made, have been completely voluntary.

Myth: The ship-sponsored shore excursions on most cruises are usually accessible.
Fact: In order to take most ship-sponsored shore excursions you have to be able to walk a few steps and climb up into a bus. Most of the ship-sponsored tours do not include accessible transportation. The exception is in Alaska, but you have to specifically request an adapted vehicle there, even on tours that are designated as "accessible".

Myth: Theme parks let wheelchair-users go to the front of the line so they don't have to wait.
Fact: In some cases, disabled guests are allowed to access certain attractions through the exit, because it's more accessible. The newer rides and attractions are being built with accessible entrances, so this alternative access is no longer required. This accommodation was never meant as a line-cutting privilege, as everyone has to wait at theme parks. The goal is to have all guests access the attractions through one integrated (and accessible) entrance.

Candy Harrington is the author of Barrier-Free Travel; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, which is available from your favorite bookstore or at Visit Candy Harrington's Barrier Free Travels blog at for more helpful access tips, travel news and information for disabled travelers.
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