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Health Team

RDU forum eases stress for travelers with disabilities

Posted June 28

Air travel can mean a stressful day for most people, but for people with disabilities, it can be a nightmare if they aren't prepared.

A group of those travelers now know how to make the experience go more smoothly, though, after a forum at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Many people from all walks of life face the crush and rush of airport travel. Two years ago, it was the topic between one man with a recent spinal cord injury and his occupational therapist.

"(He) was getting ready to travel again and was very apprehensive about going through that process from a power chair," said WakeMed physical therapist Janice McLaughlin.

McLaughlin says it led to forums at RDU to help people with disabilities better understand how to travel.

Travelers know the stress all too well, which includes pat-downs at screening gates, lost luggage or losing their own wheelchair or other important equipment.

It didn't deter Justin Richardson.

"I think years ago after my injury, I never would have thought that I could travel independently, and now I do, (by) myself, on a weekly basis," said Justin Richardson.

Richardson told the less experienced travelers at the forum to prepare ahead of time and have patience, especially at TSA screenings.

"These guys have very difficult jobs, so be nice, and the process goes a lot quicker, a lot faster—and just don't be a jerk," Richardson said.

These travelers shared their concerns and questions with TSA agents, airline representatives and others who are trained to help them.

Frequent traveler Debbie Myers recommends clearly and calmly communicating your needs.

"You're your own best advocate, and we just need to communicate when you have a concern," Myers said.

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