On the road again

If you had the travel bug before your injury, rest assured that you can keep that wandering spirit alive. Many people with an SCI continue to tour locally and abroad at will. With some smart planning, the world continues to be as expansive as your imagination!

Yours to discover

Below we offer a few highlights of what to consider when travelling. More detailed information is available on every topic from flying to booking a hotel room (or Airbnb lodging) to what to pack. Start here and then let us know how we might help further.

Planning ahead

Consider your accessibility needs when making plans. Websites like and offer guidance and tips about accessible travel and wheelchair-friendly places. Travel agents with accessibility experience will also have a treasure trove of information. In addition, there are some hardy travellers here at SCIO who can offer pointers and share their experiences. Reach out and talk to us!

You may also want to read up on this helpful guide from the Canadian Transportation Industry called Take Charge of Your Travel. It contains information on everything from Canadian standards for accessible transportation to managing your mobility aids to travelling by air, rail, ferry or bus. It also provides up to date information on restrictions and policies in place due to COVID-19

Booking a flight

Different airlines have different policies for passengers with accessibility needs. Always identify your needs and check how airlines accommodate travel companions, luggage and equipment. Some will require that you travel with an attendant if you need help getting into and out of your seat and some will not. Some offer discounts for attendants and will transport assistive devices and extra equipment free of charge. You may need a letter from your doctor confirming your level of mobility to qualify for any available discounts.

Other considerations:

  • If possible, book on days or at times when you do not have a bowel routine as this will make your flight more enjoyable.
  • Arrive early at your gate as people who use a wheelchair or require assistance will be asked to board first.
  • Limit connecting flights to make it easier to transport your mobility aids.
  • Check if transportation options (such as those offered by hotels) are accessible.

Air travel

What to wear? What to pack in your carry on? When to arrive at the airport? You have the same questions as any traveller, but the answers may be different. In addition, issues like getting a tag for your wheelchair, selecting the right seat and boarding will depend on your needs.

Here are a few tips and details:

  • At check-in, ask which seats have the leg room you require or even ask for business class. If there are available seats, you will likely be upgraded.
  • Take all the loose parts of your wheelchair on the plane with you.
  • Let staff know how to take care of your chair.
  • To board the plane, you will be transferred to a narrow chair on wheels that takes you to your seat. Let the staff know how to transfer you.
  • Consider taking a cushion with you to prevent pressure sores.
  • Make all your adjustments once seated – it’s easier to check your personal equipment and arrange your position before the plane fills.
  • Ask if there is an onboard portable transport chair in case you need it to go to the washroom. Recognize that most planes will not have a washroom big enough to accommodate this chair so you may not be able to get close enough to the toilet to transfer.  If this transport chair is needed, it may take a while for the staff to get the chair ready, so plan accordingly if you have to use the washroom.
  • When your plane begins its descent, ask an airline attendant to call the airport to make sure your chair will be ready when you arrive.

These are just a few considerations. We can supply you with more details when you are making your arrangements.

Booking a hotel room

As always, you will need to call ahead and ask whether your needs can be accommodated.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Can you reserve accessible parking, if needed?
  • If you have ordered equipment from a vendor, will the hotel set it up in your room?
  • Are attendants charged full price for an extra room? Are there adjoining rooms?
  • How wide is the door and does it have an automatic button and a lever handle?
  • How thick is the carpet? Can you roll on it?
  • Is there a roll-in shower and/or a bench to use in the shower or tub?
  • Is the bathroom big enough to accommodate your wheelchair? Is there room for an attendant?
  • Is there room to transfer onto the toilet?
  • How high is the bed, is it adjustable and is there space underneath for a lift?

Accessible travel takes pre-planning and extra steps along the way, but it will make your trip more successful and enjoyable!


Not sure how we can help? Looking for answers? Complete the form below of email us at [email protected]

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