The Unfortunate Incident in Atlanta Int’l Airport(tm) ironically occurred as I was traveling home from the SATH World Congress. Before the Incident, I spent five days meeting many awesome travel professionals who do lots of things to provide service for travelers with all sorts of disabilities.
One thing I learned is that disabled travelers can rent all kinds of helpful equipment for the road, so as to make our trips easier and more comfortable. And I realized that not all of this stuff is usable by visibly disabled travelers only–in fact, plenty of the items I heard described would be totally usable by travelers with pain, diabetic travelers, travelers with restricted diets, travelers with bathroom-related disabilities, pregnant travelers, visually impaired travelers…the list goes on and on.
It had never occurred to me that I could rent a scooter when I’m attending a conference on one of those city-block sized cruise ships, so that I don’t have to constantly walk back and forth from seminars to meals to staterooms. Heck, I could even rent a shower chair–an item that saves me a whole spoon per day. On travel, I could use that spoon to go swimming for half an hour, or take a half-mile nature walk, or check out a local clothing boutique. All much better uses for a precious spoon than standing in the shower for 10 minutes.
The Special Needs Group rents scooters and wheelchairs of all kinds–including beach wheelchairs–as well as walkers, and I suspect that if you asked nicely, they’d rent you a cane too. They’ve also got oxygen and respiratory equipment, TTY devices, Braille printed cards and documents, hospital beds, baby cribs, shower stools, commode chairs, and mini-fridges. Though these things make up the majority of the company’s usual rental equipment stock, if you need something else, give ’em a phone call and ask for it. The Special Needs Group owner and staff feel strongly about customer service, and if they possibly can, they’ll hook you up with what you need to make your trip as comfortable as possible. They’ve provided everything from organic baby food to strips of sod (for a service dog’s comfort and convenience).
So what’s the catch? For Special Needs Group in particular, it’s that their service area is limited to major port cities around the world. Formerly known as Special Needs at Sea, they still focus much of their business on cruise ship travelers. The good news: they’re expanding. They can get equipment to many major theme parks (both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, for example) and will deliver rental equipment to hotels in or near the port cities they serve.
It’s best to reserve equipment in advance of a trip, though keep their phone number handy–if they can, they’ll come through with equipment even at the last minute.