Physically Challenged Travel
Q. Our family is planning a vacation for this summer. We would like to stay in the continental U.S., such as Washington, DC, Orlando, or Seattle. However, our son, age 15, is physically disabled. He can stand and walk short distances, but has to use a wheelchair for longer distances. Do you have any suggestions for wheelchair accessible traveling?
A. Take a look at The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality's (SATH) web site, "a non-profit educational organization that has actively represented travelers with disabilities since 1976." You'll find a lot of helpful information and resources regarding traveling with disabilities. You can also call them at 212-447-7284.
Q. I understand that some airlines that allow passengers to fly with their own personal-sized oxygen tanks now that they have been approved by the FAA. Do you know which airlines these are?
A. The US Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has approved the use of personal-size oxygen onboard aircrafts. The approved units are not traditional personal oxygen tanks, but rather portable oxygen concentrator units that do not use compressed oxygen, but work rather by filtering nitrogen from the air and delivering oxygen in concentrated form to the user. Two kinds of portable oxygen concentrator units have been approved: AirSep Corporation (716-691-0202) and InogenOne (877/446-6436). So far the LifeStyle is approved for use by Midwest Airlines and US Airways, while Northwest Airlines is still evaluating the use of the LifeStyle. Inogen One is approved for use on America West Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Midwest , Northwest, Southwest Airlines and US Airways. The list of airlines that approve the usage of portable oxygen concentrators may change, so check with the airline of your choice before traveling, and ask to speak to someone in their medical department. Be sure to mention you're planning to bring one onboard at the time of reservation, since you'll have to go through pre-approval from the airline's medical desk first. For example, Delta requires at least 48 hours advance notice for required medical pre-approvals, a levies a $25 non-refundable medical screening fee for each passenger's itinerary.
Q. My wife and I are planning a March trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. The itinerary includes three nights in Cusco which is about 13,000 feet above sea level. I have to use oxygen to sleep at night, and especially when I visit my in-laws near Denver. They reside at about 8,500 feet. We have made some inquiries but have received no solid information on the availability of oxygen in Peru, other than that it's available for "emergency" purposes. Neither could we get info about its costs.
A. Machu Picchu is actually at about 8000 feet above sea level and Cusco is at 11,000 feet. Some of the better hotels in Cusco offer oxygen for guests, piped into guest rooms. I'm not sure what hotel you'll be staying at, but contact them to see if they offer oxygen. However, if you have trouble breathing at high altitudes then perhaps this is not the trip for you, especially since exploring Machu Picchu requires some physical exertion.