VIA Rail in Canada and Amtrak in the U.S. have excellent services for special needs. To be sure you receive the service you need, purchase your tickets over the telephone and let them know what you need. Services vary from train to train and station to station but if they know in advance what you need, they will be able to help you.
Canada: VIA Rail Accessible Services
Do the stations have wheelchair access? Can you bring a guide dog or get around in the trains by wheelchair? To find out what you need to know about the accessibility of VIA trains, consult the following links:
- In order to travel with VIA, passengers must be able to attend to their personal needs (eating, medical, personal hygiene) throughout the trip. If you are not able to do so, you must be accompanied by an escort. VIA will be pleased to carry your escort in the same class free of charge.
- Reduced Mobility information about booking, traveling with a companion, wheelchairs, electrical scooters, sleeping cars, meal service.
- Special Needs accessibility, adapted services, unaccompanied minors, occupy two seats.
- Accessibility Priority boarding and additional assistance
Crossing the Border New
Accessible Travel in Canada
Allergies, special meals, and medication
Get the information you need on the range of special meals offered on VIA trains, medication transportation and storage, and the policy on oxygen bottles:
- Allergies and special meals
- Oxygen bottles
U.S.: Amtrak Accessible Services
To make reservations for accessible space on Amtrak, purchase your tickets over the phone or in person at an Amtrak ticket counter.
- By telephone: Please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- By TDD/TTY: Please call 1-800-523-6590. Agents are available from 5 am to 1 am EST, seven days a week.
- At an Amtrak ticket counter: Ticket agents at staffed stations can sell tickets during regular ticket office hours. Please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) for details.
Up until 14 days before the departure of each train from its origin city, reservations for accessible bedrooms may be made only for passengers who are mobility impaired. After this period, and if all other Deluxe and Family bedrooms have been reserved, accessible bedrooms are made available to all passengers on a first-come, first-served basis. For this reason, you are urged to make your reservations as far in advance of travel as possible. On the Accessible Travel Services page, information about special needs and accessibility is available about:
Don't be Afraid to Step out of Your Comfort Zone and Travel
Crossing the Border
TSA Tips for Traveling with Visible and Invisible Disabilities
Those of us with invisible disabilities know how humiliating the TSA checkpoint can be and a long wait in line can build your pain level to much higher levels. I can identify with the terrible experience had by Brittany Quinn that she documents in her post TSA Agent Kruze: "Was the surgery worth the pain?". Hopefully her formal complaint to the TSA and the DoHS succeeded in getting better training for the TSA agents. Since then some improvements have been made that can help you. Before your trip:
- Apply for a TSA PreCheck™ membership: good for 5 years and is renewable, fee is $85, spend less time in line, you do not have to remove your shoes, light jackets, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, or laptops. You can apply online and get an appointment at your local airport or a TSA enrollment center to have a 10-minute background check and be fingerprinted.
- Download and print out the Disability Notification Card, fill in your disability, and present it to the TSA agent at the checkpoint.
- Contact the airline 72 hours in advance about your disability needs. Some airports can provide you with an advocate when you check in who will go through security with you.
Tips about Air Travel if you are Blind
Another frequent traveler is Tom Babinszki, who was born blind. Tom has a passion for travel and blogs on his website Even Grounds about traveling the world. It is not so easy when you are blind but it is not impossible. In his blog he shares his experiences and provides some tips for blind travelers. His latest post in February 2020 is "Air Travel", in which he describes getting around the airport, going through security checkpoints, waiting at the gate, and entertaining yourself during the flight.
TSA Tips for Traveling with Medical Supplies
Air Travel and the TSA
- TSA Disability Notification Card: Individuals with Disabilities and Medical Conditions (.pdf) Fill in your disability, print the card, and present it to the TSA agent before going through a security checkpoint
- Tips from the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation for disabled passengers at TSA checkpoints:
- Get a letter from your doctor explaining your medical condition. Also make sure to document all the medical supplies and equipment you will be traveling with. This can assist you through security and act as a form of advocacy. See the Sample Travel Letter for Feeding Tube and IV Consumers
- Talk to your homecare company. It's possible they can deliver supplies right to your destination so you don't need to travel with it. This save you the hassle of lugging heavy equipment and avoids the difficulty of getting through security.
- Aviation Consumer Protection U.S. Department of Transportation
- U.S. Department of Transportation Toll-Free Hotline for air travelers with disabilities:
- TSA Cares hotline: 1-855-787-2227
- Voice: 1-800-778-4838
- TTY: 1-800-455-9880
The Hotline is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, seven days a week. It serves two main purposes: (1) education and (2) assistance in resolving disability-related air travel problems.
- Air travelers who have a disability-related issue must submit their complaint in writing using the
Air Travel Complaint – Comment Form of the U.S. Department of Transportation, or
By postal mail to:
Aviation Consumer Protection Division
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 7th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590
- Wheelchair Users' Guide to Air Travel
- New Guidelines Debunk ‘Economy Class Syndrome’
- Accessible Travel – ScotRail
- Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) Accessibility includes information about accessible transportation throughout Canada. [Select English or French]
- VIA Rail Canada Accessibility
- VIA Rail Canada Special Needs
- VIA Rail Canada AccessRail VIA Rail Canada offers an extensive network for travel throughout its popular Quebec City – Montreal – Ottawa – Toronto – Windsor corridor. For passengers travelling from Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ), they can book an interoperable ticket, which includes an UP Airport Express ticket to enable passengers to travel between Pearson Airport (YYZ) and Toronto Union train station.
- The passenger must change trains at Toronto Union train station. Passengers travelling from Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport can also book an interoperable ticket which includes travel between Trudeau Airport (YUL) and Dorval train station using Indigo shuttles.
- Now you can combine airlines' flight segments with VIA Rail Canada's train segments in a single PNR. For our interline partners offering a through-fare, you can issue an e-ticket for the air-rail itinerary on that airlines' plate. For add-on rail fares to other airlines' air fares, you can issue a separate e-ticket plated on 9B (AccesRail) for the rail segment.
- Amtrak Accessible Travel Services
- Amtrak's Baggage Requirements.
- Accessible Rental Vans for Baltimore, Philadelphia, and other states
- Adaptive Vehicle Guide Information Reprinted with permission from the American Automobile Association, AAA World Magazine, May/June issue, 2000.
- Adaptive Driving: Vehicle Hand Controls and Available Products
- Disabled Access in Washington, DC accessiblity information and resources for the Nation's Capital
- Eastern Mobility customized transportation solutions for physically challenged individuals
- From Frank Gorden Auto Service: "The Ultimate Guide To Driving with Disabilities"
- NHTSA's Automotive Safety Issues for Persons with Disabilities
- Mobility Independent Transportation Systems, Inc. (M.I.T.S.) driving equipment, van conversions, scooters, and power chairs [Mid-Atlantic region]
- Ride-Away adaptive equipment, driving controls, handicap accessible rental vans [Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Virginia]
- Wheelers Handicapped Accessible Van Rentals
Disabled Horseback Riding
- Adaptive Sailing
- Disabled Sailing Association of British Columbia (DSA-BC) Sailing for people with significant physical disabilities got its start in Canada in 1989, when Sam Sullivan used a British-made Sunbird dinghy to launch the first few sails at the Jericho Sailing Centre on English Bay. Today, the Disabled Sailing Association of BC (DSA-BC) operates eight specially designed Martin 16 sailboats and hosts between 800 and 1,000 sailing experiences annually at Jericho and more from its affiliated branches in Victoria, Chemainus and Kelowna. Inspired by DSA-BC and Sam Sullivan's efforts to expose more and more people with very high levels of physical disabilities to the sport, adaptive sailing has now spread across Canada, throughout the US and around the world. Disabled sailing now plays a major role in the Summer Paralympics every four years. [Canada]
- Canadian Yachting Association: Sailors With Disabilities
- Para World Sailing
- Accessible Cruises in the Mediterranean Disabled Holidays – Travel without Limits [Greece]
- Sailability around the world Sailability organisations are "not for profit", volunteer-based, and through the activity of Sailing enriches the lives of people of all abilities – the elderly, the financially and socially disadvantaged as well as people with physical challenges.
Emergency Evacuation and Traveler's Services
- Traveler’s Emergency Network (TEN) an international membership organization dedicated to providing the best travel assistance services for a low annual membership fee: 24 hour access to medical experts, emergency evacuation, repatriation home after stabilization, transportation home for dependents, return of mortal remains, Seven Corners International, and many other travel benefits.
- Fire Safety for Wheelchair Users (.pdf)
- Currency Conversion Calculator for current and live exchange rates, and exchange rates from 1990 through yesterday
- Australia: Understanding the opportunity for Australia in Accessible Tourism provides a qualitative and qualitative study with the aim of determining the current value of the market, the latent demand and the key barriers preventing travel for people with a disability.
- Accessible Europe tourism for all
- Accessible Travel Hub – Scotland
- Access Northern California
- Accessible Island Tours: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Roatan, Honduras, Wheelchair Transportation Service
- ADA Stories: Four Communities Improve Civic Access, an ADA report: San Antonio, Texas | Springfield, Missouri | Summers County, West Virginia | Fernandina Beach, Florida
- Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH) Facebook page
- Mobility Scooter Etiquette tips for individuals with special needs to help make life safer and more enjoyable for everyone from the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH)
- Maps for Getting Around France
- Accessible Hotels in Greece [Greece]
- Old Town Nice France Accessible Guided Tour This accessible Nice walking tour can begin from the Nice cruise dock or your accessible hotel in downtown Nice. During your half-day walking tour you'll stroll along the famous Promenade des Anglais boulevard that runs along the ocean. Your accessible Nice tour will also visit the narrow winding streets of Le Vieux Nice including the colorful markets, Baroque churches, and pastel houses. The tour has a 3 Star Sage Accessibility Rating because it uses step-free routes along the tour route. It did not receive a higher rating because you may encounter cobblestones and hills during the tour. If you are arriving at the Villefranche cruise dock, the Monaco cruise dock, or the Cannes cruise dock, you can book a Nice accessible van tour instead. Some entrance tickets are free for disabled visitors if they have an ID card from their home country stating the percent of their disability.
Encouragement and Guides
- Travel questions, tips, and publications, U.S. State Department passports, visas, foreign adoptions, and tips for residents and nonresidents
- Consumer Affairs Travel News the latest travel news
- Disabled Travelers Guide to the World get rid of your fear, follow your dreams, and trust that a solution will be found. This travel guide shows how a couple visited many countries, tells you how to plan, where to stay, and what to take.
- Wheelchair Accessible Hotel Room Downside
- Emerging Horizons—Accessible Travel News since 1996 by Candy B. Harrington
- Eight Reasons Why Disabled Travelers Should Hit the Road by Candy B. Harrington New
- Accessible Travel Guides traveling with disabilities guidebooks from BootsnAll Travel, "the ultimate resource for the independent traveler" Updated
- Armchair World: Handicapped-Accessible Tours fishing, kayaking, white-water rafting…
- Accessible Travel Information lists many resources for traveling with a disability. This website also provides a printer-friendly version.
- Wheelchair Travelling: Access Your World
- The National Ability Center offers a wide variety of programs both seasonally and year-round. Activities include alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, horseback riding, hippotherapy, indoor rock climbing, swimming, archery, sled hockey, cycling, water-skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, and challenge course activities. In each of the last three years, individuals and their families participated in more than 19,000 lessons and outings. Because safety is the first priority, instruction is provided by professional, certified instructors and complemented by trained interns and volunteer assistants. More than 850 volunteers contribute over 20,000 hours annually. Many of the instructors and volunteers are also individuals with disabilities and serve as role models for our participants.
- National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC)
is working to increase access to transportation for older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers. The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) is a program funded by the Federal Transit Administration and administered by Easterseals and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) with guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living.
Related Travel Information on This Website