Family travel: 'Can we take our disabled son to Florida?'

Q. We have three young children, one of whom is six and severely disabled. We want to go to Florida next year, but have no idea of the mechanics of taking our disabled son on a flight. He won't be able to sit still in an aeroplane seat for more than a few minutes, and is too unmanageable to sit on our knees. Normally, he travels in a slightly larger than normal car seat (which we will need to take with us anyway for use in the hire car), but what will we do with it and his wheelchair on the plane? Are some airlines better than others at dealing with this kind of thing? And there is one further complication: our son has a cochlear implant. Can we avoid taking him through any electronic- scanning devices? J Thatcher, Nottinghamshire

A. Even though travelling with a disability has become easier, it still requires a lot of forward planning, and is not without its hurdles.

Tackling the flights first: you need to establish a dialogue with the airline early on. British Airways (0844 493 0787; and Virgin Atlantic (08705 747 747; both fly from London to Miami and Orlando, and have comprehensive disability guidelines; Virgin even has a dedicated number: 0870 990 8350.

An experienced and understanding travel agent could also be a useful ally, since he or she will know the procedures (and aviation jargon) for looking after disabled travellers.

The airline needs to know the details of your son's condition, and that you will be taking a wheelchair, so that the appropriate preparation can be made on board the aircraft, and cabin crew are aware of your family's needs.

If you are taking a battery-operated wheelchair, you must inform the airline 48 hours in advance of the weight, dimensions and battery type. If you can take the wheelchair on board, it won't count towards your carry-on limit. Under the Dangerous Goods Act, battery-operated wheelchairs must be stored in the hold. If the battery is spillable, it must be removed, unless the chair is to be stored upright during the flight.

In relation to the car seat, BA rules say that if parents wish to bring their own on board, it must be securable by the normal aircraft single lap strap. The seat must also face the same way as the passenger seat, and not exceed the width of the plane seat. The dimensions vary with each airline, but an economy seat typically measures 17in-20in. Check with the airline when you are booking to ensure that the car seat fits the plane seat.

Wheelchairs set off metal detectors at airport security, so both your son and the chair will have to be hand searched; you have the right to request that he is searched in private.

The metal-detector archways used for security checks produce magnetic fields that can cause speech processors to become corrupted. To prevent damage to your son's cochlear implant, it is advisable to remove the processor and turn it off before passing through any such apparatus. The processor must be X-rayed, which can be done safely as long as it is turned off. It is also advisable to carry your son's ID card and the equipent's user manual, to show to security staff on request.

For much more information and advice, see the excellent website flying-with You may well conclude, though, that it will be considerably less stressful to enlist help in organising your first trip, so consider a specialist operator such as Disability Travel (020-8731 2111; uk). It organises tailor-made trips, including to the All-Star Music Resort in Disney World, Florida (pictured left). These take into consideration everything from flights to accommodation. Prices depend on specific needs. Access Travel (01942 888 844; access-travel. also offers tailor-made holidays to Florida.

Send family travel queries toThe Independent Parent, Travel Desk, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or email crusoe@independent.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk