Welcome to part four of our travel series, where we will be covering a variety of topics on travel and access that will better prepare you for traveling with individuals with disabilities.
You can read more on this topic in the following articles in the series:

Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can follow the series and come back to it for easy reference when you need a refresher.

Travel in these hectic, high-security times has added new forms of stress to our lives. For individuals with disabilities, this is even more true. While the general public and travel personnel are more tuned in today to the diverse needs of travelers who have physical disabilities, individuals with less visible communication challenges may not receive the same kind of respect and support—simply because their disability often goes unrecognized. For example, travel websites and signage on location in airports, train stations and public buildings can tell readers where to find ramps and accessible entrances. But a person who requires augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) support such as a dedicated communication device may be met with confusion due to a general lack of understanding of their needs.

As part of trip planning—whether it’s a family vacation or a school field trip—it’s important to plan for communication and conversation access to make the travel easier and more enjoyable for all.

Considerations as you plan your adventures

If a child will be traveling with a dedicated communication device, choose a durable case for transporting the unit to keep it safe from damage. And consider packing an extra power cord for longer trips.

Flying to your destination?

Be ready to turn on the device during airport screenings. Although communication devices are assistive pieces of equipment, they are not immune to necessary safety checks and scans. Consider keeping a text or symbol-supported explanation of the device available for security personnel who may be unfamiliar with communication devices.

Traveling to a wet or sandy destination?

Is the display on the communication device functional in direct sunlight? A good back-up plan is to have a printed and laminated or waterproof communication system ready if one is needed.

Headed to a location with a language difference?

Even if you are familiar with the language, it’s a good idea to bring along a list of translated and symbol-supported phrases—and share copies with everyone in your group. Consider including requests or needs you can anticipate. For example, if a traveler has a need for frequent rest or a quiet location, you might carry translated and symbol-supported phrases such as: “I need a quiet place to sit” or “We need help locating a quiet area.”

Does your child or family member use symbol supports for organization and communication across settings?

Try creating symbol-supported communication boards for various travel situations including an airport, taxi, restaurant, hotel, pharmacy, and hospital, just in case. An ideal new travel solution for individuals with communication challenges is n2y’s SymbolStix SQUARES—portable, durable symbol-based picture cards in a box, with recognizable visual supports and high-frequency words. Use them to enable communication with others or to simplify planning, organization and setting expectations.

Communication challenges add a layer of complexity but making a communication plan before departure can alleviate anxiety and prevent stressful situations. In addition to traveling with SymbolStix SQUARES, it might be time-saving to print and use the eXtras resources and activities available to n2y subscribers. And by all means, whether you have a challenge or a great experience in a restaurant or other travel venue, share your ratings for accessibility and accommodations. Other travelers will appreciate and benefit from your experiences!

SymbolStix PRIME brochure

Would you like to know more about SymbolStix PRIME? Check out our brochure.

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About the Author
Anne Johnson-Oliss has spent more than 20 years in the special education field as a teacher, supervisor, sales and marketing professional and business leader. In addition to teaching at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, Anne has authored five books and is an experienced presenter at national and international forums. She earned a Master of Education degree from Wright State and holds several certifications in education and business.