Planning a trip by bus, train, car, or plane can be a complicated and stressful journey – and even more so as someone with an intellectual disability. Many airports, gas stations, and other amenities are not accessible or inclusive for persons with disabilities. However, there are many resources that exist to ensure getting to your destination is just as fun as arriving.
The Canadian Transportation Agency has created a useful resource guide for individuals with disabilities. Take Charge of Your Travel outlines your rights as a traveler and how to communicate effectively with the company or service you’re travelling with to ensure an inclusive and enjoyable transit. For example, did you know that several airlines allow a support worker or helper to travel with you free of charge? We recommend looking at the company-specific policies that your transportation service provides for persons with disabilities. Perhaps the most important tip in this guide is to be as forthright and clear about your support needs as possible, to ensure that your needs can be met when you travel.
Autism Aviators is a program created by Autism Nova Scotia and The Halifax Stanfield International Airport to make flying with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) a sensory-friendly and accessible experience. The partnership provides the traveller with multiple resources to successfully navigate the airport and travel by plane. There are visual and written guides on what to pack, how to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety, and what snacks are good to bring along. Initially piloted in 2017, the program has since expanded to multiple airports throughout the country. Check with your local airport for details.
The Disability Travel Card is a good way to ensure that your personal support worker can join you on your bus or train journey at a reduced rate. Organized by Easter Seals Canada, the Disability Travel Card lets your transportation company know you need assistance on your trip. Once your application is accepted, your personal support worker will be able to travel with Greyhound, Coach Canada, and Via Rail for a reduced ticket price. While Greyhound’s service in western Canada has been greatly reduced, Easter Seals is currently working with other transportation providers to ensure that getting around British Columbia and Alberta is as easy as possible.
Discover My Route is an all-in-one app, educational program, and travel resource. Created to help persons with an intellectual disability traverse Toronto public transit, it offers courses, guides, and an app to make sense of the many different ways to get around in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and provides a detailed breakdown of your trip, including transit stops and alternate options to get from Point A to B. Although there is a fee and application process, initiatives like this help ensure equitable access to municipal transportation. Many cities across Canada offer similar programs – check with your municipal transit service to see what they offer!
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