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  • toughandcompetent

Travelling Disabled

To fly or not to fly; that is the question. Or really it's more like, to go or not to go. In my last job I didn't think twice about booking turn and burn trips that had me packing three suitcases and leaving them lined up in my room to grab and go on my next flight back to back. I often flew with knee braces, getting airport assistance, memorably a few times on crutches...every single one of those was taking a heavy toll that I was never keeping track of or that I was ignoring. But it's different now. Having an assistance dog has brought me more freedom to move but with it more planning involved in travelling. If I'm flying inside the country I need to alert my airline and give them all his information before we fly so I can be issued with a certificate of carriage. This is them authenticating that he's a "real" assistance dog and can fly in cabin despite being a large dog. He has to be up to date on all his vaccines, and he has to be show proof of them at the gate check. If we are flying outside the UK, post-Brexit we now have to get an animal health certificate ... this is expensive and its a form that is filled out every time we travel to another country. An AHC is valid only for that trip, and it has to be completed within 10 days of departure. Depending on what country we are traveling to there may be different vaccines or treatments he needs before or after we arrive. A common one is tapeworm treatment which means another vet visit, another bill.

We can't fly on just any carrier as Ghost is privately trained - and while he has paperwork attesting to his work and training, some airlines refuse because he's not trained by an ADUK org. While on the surface ADUK seems like a good organisation - they mostly champion the acceptance of organisation and charity-trained dogs. This means that for people who owner-train that they don't provide resources or assistance and in fact have over the years changed the wording on their website to be less and less inclusive of owner-trained animals despite owner-trained dogs being completely legal under the 2010 Equality Act. I have to fly friendly carriers and I also have to fly routes that take me through major airports that have an animal reception centre to meet me at the plane. This isn't often the cheapest route or the easiest route.

It would be so much easier if there were more ways to accredit owner trained service dogs... it would also be helpful if airlines were more accepting, if I could update a file once and show that I have an assistance dog that travels with me and then whenever I booked with them he was automatically on my reservation. It would be amazing if I could have a pet passport for my disability so that every time we traveled I wasn't subjected to extremely high AHC fees just to be able to go places that my able-bodied colleagues go without extra charge.

All of this doesn't even take into account what happens when I get to a destination... is the hotel friendly? Will the conference make sure to accommodate me and my needs? Will someone remember that even with my assistance dog I can't be standing for 12 straight hours and that I can't walk long distances? It's little things - things I used to think about a lot as an event planner but that now I see a lot of people not think about in the planning of their events. That's what I'd like. I'd like it if when people were planning they planned for every body to begin with instead of planning for us later, for us as an afterthought.

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