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Airline Travel for Those with Low Vision

February 8 2011 | by

A woman with a cane looks at airport monitor screens

When it comes to air travel when you have a visual impairment, it’s not just about getting frisked in security and boarding a stuffy, crowded plane.  Airports present quite a few additional obstacles to passengers traveling with a visual impairment.  For someone who is totally blind and traveling with a seeing-eye dog, it is kind of obvious that they may need some assistance.  Those with low vision on the other hand, have to do a bit more asking, be more organized and get to the airport earlier than most – it’s no fun running to a gate and not being able to read the signs even though they can be quite large.

We thought it would be helpful to take a look at a few of the major airlines in the United States to see what accommodations and assistance they provide to travelers with low vision.

Here is what we found…

Southwest Airlines

On the home page, click on Customer Service (towards the bottom of the page) and in the left hand column, look for the Unique Travel Needs section where you will see Customers with Disabilities listed.  Just click on your particular disability or need; click on Blind or Low Vision travelers in the menu on the left hand side.

Delta

On the Delta homepage click on the Travel Information link located at the top of the page.  Once there, you will find a Related Links section in the bottom left of the screen with two options – one being Services for Travelers with Disabilities.  Delta offers several different options for information depending on your particular concern, so take a look around to see what they provide for your particular needs.

US Airways

On the US Airways home page, it is easy to book a flight, but not easy to locate a Customer Service section.  Instead, go directly to the bottom of the page where you will see the link for the website’s Site Map.  On the left-hand side of this page, under the Travel Tools section, scroll down until you reachPolicies and Special Needs.  On this page you will be presented with a number of helpful links addressing individual needs and disabilities.  If you have a vision impairment, click on Vision Disability, and you will see a detailed page of helpful information.

United

On the United Airlines home page, navigate to the Services and Information tab at the top of the page.  When you hover your mouse over this tab, a drop-down menu will appear, in which you will see a link forTravelers with Special Needs option. After clicking this link, you will be presented with several different categories of assistance offered by United, including Blind of Sight Impaired, which can be found under Sensory Assistance.

Spirit

On the Spirit Air home page, go to the Manage Flights tab at the top of the page, and click on Travel Policies in the drop-down menu.  While the Special Travel Needs section doesn’t discuss vision impairments directly, they do address special needs and disabilities, as well as the accessible options they offer for all of their flights.

JetBlue

Click on the Manage Flights tab at the top of the page, and then scroll down to the bottom of the page.  In the bottom, left-hand corner of the page, click on “Special Needs”, and in the menu that appears to the right, click on Customers with Special Needs.  On this page you will see a section for Customers with Special Needs, and JetBlue’s statement of accommodation and contract of carriage.

All in all, there is help to be had when traveling by airline; however, you will most likely have to ask for help or assistance if you need it.  This is not a bad thing, as all of these airlines have policies in place to assist travelers with special requirements.

While this is just a quick navigational overview to see what airlines offer to low vision travelers, we would love to hear your stories of airline travel – good, bad, or otherwise – to learn what it’s really like, and how well airlines provide assistance to those who need it.

-By McKenzie Brown, Ai Squared

This article was reprinted with permission from Ai Squared, a maker of ZoomText and other low-vision software. Check out Ai Squared’s other blog posts here.

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