Through the use of cameras, sensors and computers, on-road test vehicles are successfully driving themselves!
What just a few years ago seemed like science fiction is quickly becoming a reality. Technology giants such as Google and Apple are teaming up with major automobile manufacturers in developing and road-testing self-driving cars and smaller SUVs. Google’s concept cars are already on the road this very minute! So how long will it be until you can purchase an accessible vehicle that drives itself?
All of the models on the road are currently in beta-testing, but Google has claimed that they hope these vehicles will be for sale to the general public by 2020. There were huge strides earlier this month when the federal government announced guidelines and procedures for safety and operation. One of the big challenges that remains is how this will affect insurance companies, especially if there are accidents. The scenario has already taken place when a Google Lexus AV (autonomous vehicle) drove into the side of a bus at low speed in Mountain View, CA.
Realistically, it will be several years before you will be able to purchase a self-driving minivan or larger SUV. Most of the models being tested are smaller vehicles like the Tesla Model S or Ford Fusion. However, earlier this summer Business Insider posted a picture of a self driving Ford Transit on the Golden Gate Bridge.
New Driver-Assist Technologies Available Today
It’s safe to assume that it will be another 10 years or more before self-driving accessible vehicles will be available. It’s anyone’s guess as to how soon it will become a reality. In the meantime, there is some exciting new technology available today for drivers to enjoy! The 2017 Wheelchair Accessible Chrysler Pacifica will be available at MobilityWorks by early next year and it has some optional features that are a step closer to self-driving. One of them is LaneSense, which provides a gentle corrective action if you move out of your lane without the turn signal being activated. Forward collision warning utilizes cameras and sensors, and will even break for you if an accident is imminent. The 360 Surround View Camera makes parking and maneuvering tight spaces a breeze! While these technology features don’t equal the excitement surrounding the use of self-driving cars, they are a step in the right direction toward making vehicles safer and more technologically advanced.
Travelling can be a daunting experience for everyone, and even more so for those with a disability. There’s so much to think about: how you’re going to get to your destination, where you’re going to stay, insurance, airport transfers… the list goes on. There’s even MORE to think about when you’re disabled: what equipment will you need to bring, will your airline cater for your needs, will your accommodation be accessible?
My name is Martyn Sibley, and I’m a huge travel enthusiast. I was born with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) so I’ve been a wheelchair user my whole life.
Just the thought of accessible travel is enough to put most people off; there’s just too much to think about. I’m here to make things easier for you. I’m going to give you 10 handy tips to help make your next accessible holiday, a less stressful experience for everybody.
Ring the airport AND your airline prior to your holiday.
Of course, the earlier the better as it allows them to prepare for your visit. If you are a wheelchair user, you will need to book yourself a normal seat on the airplane. Ring the airport you are travelling from, tell them your flight and inform them that you will need assistance. After, ring your airline company and inform them of exactly the same. Between them, they will assist you and ensure you have a pleasant flight.
Ring your accommodation.
As before, inform them of your stay and notify them of any assistance you may need. This is a chance to ask any questions you may have, and to find out if this accommodation is FULLY accessible and able to cater for your needs. I also highly recommend that you ask if they have any equipment available to hire.
Ensure you have FULL, valid insurance.
It may be costly, BUT it’s worth every penny. If you need any form of assistance during your holiday, the last thing you want is a horrifying bill to return home to. Ensure you tell your insurance company of every existing and pre-existing conditions, so you’re covered for everything.
Insure your equipment.
Many people don’t think about this, but what happens if your wheelchair or any other form of equipment breaks during your flight? If you insure your equipment, you will be covered for these circumstances, and your equipment will be replaced, or you will be given the equivalent value.
Separate your ‘must-haves’ from your ‘may-needs’.
Of course, you know exactly what equipment you need and what you don’t. If you’ve contacted your accommodation beforehand, you should be aware if they have any equipment available to hire. If they provide manual hoists, there’s no need to bring yours too. It’s very easy to over-pack, which is why you should rethink what you really need.
Label ALL your equipment.
This is something else many people don’t think about, but can come in very handy. Write your name, address and contact number on your equipment, just in case it goes missing during your travels. I’m aware at how expensive equipment can be, so the last thing you need is for your brand new manual hoist to go missing during your flight!
Research and plan how you’re going to travel around your destination.
This may seem obvious, BUT decide how you’re going to travel around, ensuring you have all the details you need. Taxi, underground/ subway, bus, hire car, train, tram… Everyone has their preferences, but decide which will be the most convenient mode of transport for you. Top Tip: It’s also handy to have the information of a second mode of transport, just in case.
Have a way to get extra money if need be.
Of course you’re going to take more than enough money for your trip, but it’s always handy to have access to or bring spare just in case. What if your wheelchair breaks and you need to hire another one? What if the bus breaks down and you need to call for a taxi? What if the manual hoist the hotel provided for you isn’t sufficient, and you need to hire another? It’s always handy to have spare money just in case.
Get the details of an equipment hire company.
This is essential if you use a range of different equipment. I understand that to some, equipment such as a hoist or shower chair is an essential part of their everyday life, so it’s handy to know of a company that you can hire from whilst on holiday.
Print ALL of your documents.
This doesn’t just mean your flight/ boarding passes and accommodation vouchers, this means ATOL certificates, insurance details, taxi numbers, equipment hire company details… the lot. You’ll probably find that you won’t need half of the information, but it’s handy to have.
I have many other top tips to hand, but these are by far the top 10. If you want more help and advice on how you can book and experience a less stressful, more enjoyable accessible holiday, then click here.
Accessible Traveller is a monthly newsletter filled with top tips, advice and recommendations on how you can book the accessible holiday of your dreams. You’ll also have access to inspiring stories, product reviews and even some cheeky little discounts! We aim to make travelling less stressful, more affordable and more enjoyable for everyone.
Click here to find out how you can benefit from Accessible Traveller.
Traveling by air can be challenging for anyone. Thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act and stricter rules to remove obstacles, flying has become easier for people with disabilities. If you prepare in advance with these 14 tips, you’re more likely to have an easier, less stressful flight.
Plan Ahead. This may seem simple, but be sure that you have your reservations in order as far in advance as possible. When booking, be sure to notate any special requests. It’s never a bad idea to call the airline to speak to someone regarding your mobility needs. In addition, you should organize travel information so that you have it easily available throughout your travels.
Call the Doctor. Make sure that flying will not affect your health. Be sure to get prescriptions filled-you will want to pack those on your carry on. Ask your doctor if they have recommendations for emergency contacts in your destination. If your doctor does not know any, it’s worth searching online and asking friends so that you have someone to reach out to should a situation arise while traveling.
Charge Your Phone and iPad Ahead of Time. Make sure your phone and tablet device is fully charged before you leave for the airport. Write a note to remind yourself before going to bed the night before. Have ear buds with you in your carry on.
Confirm, Confirm, Confirm. You can’t talk to too many different airline officials to confirm that your needs will be met and ask any questions you have. You can call the airline directly at the number listed on their website.
Prepare Your Weelchair. Be sure that your chair is in good shape for travel, and have an emergency repair kit just in case.
At the Airport
Arrive Early. On the day of your flight, you should arrive extra early to go through security and be sure that all necessary equipment is in order. Any equipment that will be taken from you in flight should be tagged with your contact information.
Obtain a Luggage Claim Receipt. Your wheelchair will be checked with other luggage, so be sure you have a receipt to claim your wheelchair.
Work with the TSA. If you cannot walk through a metal detector, be sure to notify a TSA agent so that you can be hand wanded. If you have any sore or sensitive areas on your body, be sure to alert the agent. You are allowed to have a private screening with a companion of your choice there.
Make Boarding Requests Known. Right before and as you board, be sure to notify crew members of any special needs or requests you may have during the flight.
Remove Pads as You Board. Padding like seat cushions and leg supports don’t tend to travel well with other luggage. Bring a bag with so you can remove these from your wheelchair as you are boarding and your wheelchair is taken.
Ask about the Lavatory. It’s a good idea to use the restrooms before you board as many lavatories marked as accessible are still quite small and difficult to maneuver in. Ask the desk attendants at the gate for more details.
Prepare for Layovers. If you are going to have a layover, ask that your own equipment is returned while you are in the airport. This will keep you independent and mobile, and lessens the risk of damage to your equipment.
In Flight and After Landing
Speak with the crew while in flight. Remind the flight attendants that you need your equipment brought to the gate. If you do this before you land, the crew can communicate with gate officials ahead of time to make those arrangements.
Communicate. If something goes wrong during the flight, you’ll want to be sure to speak up so that you and other travelers hopefully don’t face the same difficulty again. If you experience inaccessibility during travel, ask to speak to a Complaints Resolution official. You can also file a written complaint within 45 days of the incident. The airline is required to respond within 30 days.
If you have any questions, you can always contact your airline. Each airline needs to follow the Air Carrier Access Act, which covers access on all flights to and from the United States. In addition, you can call the US Department of Transportation with any questions related to transportation.
Plan Ahead for Accessible Transportation
Most airport and hotel shuttle providers, such as SuperShuttle, will have wheelchair accessible vans equipped with a lift (but not all in their fleet). Make sure to let them know ahead of time that you are using a wheelchair and will need to have an accessible van when getting picked up.
MobilityWorks offers rentals in many states. During Holiday seasons, these vehicles are often booked weeks (even months) ahead of time. Plan ahead by contacting us as soon as you know your travel schedule. The sooner the better! For more information about our accessible rentals, click here.
Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the United States and a very popular tourist destination. You can spend days discovering all sites the City of Angels has to offer. When you or a loved one is traveling with a wheelchair or scooter, it’s important to plan ahead so that your travels are smooth and stress-free. Read on for MobilityWorks’ guide to experiencing Los Angeles in an accessible way, and don’t forget to book your wheelchair van rental in advance.
What to See
Venice Beach’s Boardwalk offers a full day of amusement and great accessibility. The flat walkway is easy to navigate, and the boardwalk features performers, unique food and drink and beautiful views. The weekend’s are a virtual sidewalk circus that can’t be missed.
Hollywood Boulevard and Universal City features several famous landmarks like the Chinese Theatre and Walk of Fame. The streets are teeming with tourist shops, fortune tellers, and more. You can even take a tour of the nearby homes of celebrities. Experience plenty of accessible tourist attractions in this area-don’t forget your camera!
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a world-famous museum you can gain access to with your donation. Conveniently located elevators make exhibits easy to see. Enjoy sculptures, photography, cultural art and more.
What to Do
The Walt Disney Concert Hall houses the Los Angeles Philharmonic. There are plenty of great seats in the house for wheelchair users and companions in every section. You can even borrow devices that help you listen to the show.
Enjoy the day at one of California’s beautiful beaches from the comfort of a beach wheelchair. Additionally, several locations may offer motorized chairs which can be propelled by the user. From Venice to Santa Monica to Hermosa, experience the California coastline with ease.
Disneyland is a top theme park in Anaheim, close to Los Angeles. The Walt Disney Company is known for accessibility, and even has a guide and policies in place for guests with disabilities. This year, Disneyland is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary with extra fun for the whole family.
The Los Angeles Farmer’s Market has many shopping options from homemade candies to international eats. The walkways are very wide and many accessible parking spots are available.
The Grove Shopping Center is conveniently next to the Farmer’s Market. While the center features many well known stores, there are also performers and you can even take a trolley ride. You can plan a day to visit both the Farmer’s Market and the Grove.
How to Get Around
The Los Angeles Metro Transit Authority accommodates any type of wheelchair or scooter. Passengers with disabilities can ride for a reduced fee. Hearing, mobility and visual aids are available.
The Trolley between the Grove and the Farmers Market is wheelchair accessible with a slide out ramp. While it runs seasonally, the ride is meant more for the experience than transportation. The trolley is a popular attraction so be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds!
Make your trip completely worry-free with a wheelchair van rental from MobilityWorks. We have two convenient locations in Pasadena and Van Nuys, and we can even deliver the rental vehicle to you. Give us a call at 1-877-275-4915 to reserve today!
Passport Issues to Know About When Driving Across the Border
Now that you’ve purchased a wheelchair van and plan on visiting destinations in Canada or Mexico, you need to prepare ahead of time for obtaining a passport. You can no longer drive across the border with just a state issued license and birth certificate. If you’re thinking about taking a trip, here are a few things to be aware of.
1. A new passport card option, similar to a driver’s license, is now available for driving across the border versus flying. It is a less expensive option if you don’t plan on flying or travelling to other countries in the near future.
2. Getting a new passport book or card can take 4 to 6 weeks, so plan ahead and take the steps necessary to acquire one as soon as possible. If a passport is needed in a hurry (2 to 4 weeks), there are expedited options available for an additional $60 per applicant.
3. Necessary items and information when completing your application:
– Recent driver’s license or government issued ID and Social Security Number
– Certified birth certificate, issued by the city, county or state – not a plain copy
– Both parent’s first, middle and last names (including mother’s maiden name)
– Both parents birth dates and place of birth (city and state)
– Color photo(s) to size, one for passport card only, two for passport book and card
Note: It is recommended that you go to a service outlet for obtaining your passport pictures. Passport photos must be printed on photo quality paper, 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size, so that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. Costs for having passport photos taken at a local pharmacy, portrait photographer or copy/print service provider ranges from $10 to $15.
The State Department website lists updated Adult Passport Book and Card options plus the Execution Fee. Go here to learn more about your application options, fees and payment methods.
NOTE: All first time applicants must apply in person at a Passport Agency, Acceptance Facility, U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Examples of passport acceptance facilities may include the Local Post Office or County Library. A passport card is valid for up to 10 years for adults (16 years or older) and 5 years for minors (under age 16).
Traveling With Pets and Other Restrictions
There are some restrictions on what you can take across the border. It’s important to check with each country’s website to see what is allowed and what is not allowed, such as fresh fruit, liquor and firearms. Dogs and cats may be brought to Canada, as long as they are accompanied by a veterinarian-signed document that indicates the animal’s breed and physical description — as well as proof they are up to date with their rabies shots. Dog or cat food containing beef or lamb byproducts, however, are not allowed.
Accessible Travel Made Easier
There are plenty of websites on the internet for finding information about accessible vacations and recommended destinations for people in wheelchairs. There’s even a few apps being developed to assist with finding accessible bathrooms.
Planning ahead and preparing for your next road trip adventure can avoid disappointing delays. Getting your passport book, passport card (or both) as early as possible will help to make planning for the rest of your vacation as stress free as possible.