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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: gaja on December 26, 2016, 04:55:05 PM

Title: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: gaja on December 26, 2016, 04:55:05 PM
We are planning to go to the US around March/April to do a road trip in California. We will probably fly in to Los Angeles, and we will be visiting a relative doing research at Berkeley, but other than that, the plans are open. Both our kids have disabilities; one is deaf, and the other one has Erb's Palsy (causing chronic pain and fatigue). It is not a major obstacle when we travel, we are so used to it that we adapt instinctively. Also, those are not the worst diagnoses to adapt to. But we have not travelled a lot outside the Nordic countries, and I find it a bit challenging to find information about how stuff works the US (except for wheelchair access, which we don't need).

In the Nordic countries we have a assistance card that reduces the ticket price for one of the adults escorting the disabled person, if you use public transport, go to the cinema, etc. The assistance card is also needed to get disability access at amusement parks and museums (spending a lot of time in queue is something we try to avoid). Is there something similar in the US? I see Disney has some sort of disability card, but that they don't ask for proof. Is this how it commonly is done at museums and other attractions?

Any tips and tricks are welcome, whether they relate to general travel advice for California, or to travelling with disabled kids in the US.
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: meandmyfamily on December 26, 2016, 06:09:48 PM
I would call ahead to each museum and attraction and ask how to get the accommodations that you need.  Most places are flexible and will explain their policies.  I have heard of needing a doctor's letter or some sort of explanation for some places but I don't know how common that is. 
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: ltt on December 27, 2016, 06:29:00 AM
We live in the U.S.  Two of our children have disabilities, however, there are no specific cards here in the U.S. which allow us any reduced ticket prices due to escorting a disabled individual.  If people have children who are 12 years of age and under, in the vast majority of restaurants, movie theatres, etc. there is a reduced price for admission, less expensive children's meals offered, but it has to do with age, not disability.

In regards to Disneyland, am linking the page with services they offer their guests with disabilities:

Also, when at Disneyland, there is an extraordinary amount of walking done, and the days spent there are long.  Since you mentioned your daughter has pain and fatigue, it may be worth it for her to have a wheelchair or stroller.  You can get a basic stroller or wheelchair at the front gate of Disneyland or rent a stroller from a private company.

There is so much to see and do in California.  We love Disney, but also love San Francisco. 

Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: Mezzie on December 27, 2016, 07:05:38 AM
Disney is pretty good about accommodating people with disabilities so long as they are visible (e.g., someone is using a scooter or wheelchair, which may be a good idea for your child that gets fatigued). If your childrens' disabilities will be invisible, call ahead to make arrangements. Some people abused the disabled pass system and made it harder for the rest of us, unfortunately. I'll ask my friends that work there if they can give me more details and get back to you if I learn something new.

Public transit has disabled pricing if you have proof. I get a disabled bus/train card that has my picture on it. I'm not sure what their policy is for people without that. Again, I'd call. Unfortunately, each system has their own rules, so you'd have to call the different counties you'll be visiting.

I've never seen disabled/assistant pricing at museums here in LA, but we do have free museum days, so you can try going on those days and make it free for everyone. I highly recommend the Huntington Library. Our science museum at Expo park is always free for general admission, though special exhibits are ticketed. That's a super kid-friendly place. There's also a beautiful HUGE rose garden just outside it.
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: gaja on December 27, 2016, 02:21:14 PM
Thank you for the useful information. Sounds like it will be less predictable than we are used to, so we should probably be looking out for those free for all museum days. Planning ahead and calling different options is a challenge, especially with the youngest. We never know how much or what we will be able to do in a day, so plans always have to be changed. If Disneyland is as much walking as you say, we will probably just skip it.

Sounds like getting a translation of our assistance card won't be enough, so we'll ask our doctor to write something for us in English. Or, more probably, writing something in English and asking the doctor to sign it.
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: Mezzie on December 27, 2016, 03:45:58 PM
The plus side for being in a party with a disabled person at Disney is less time in line (that's why it got abused -- we disabled basically have front of the line passes for most rides). There are shows and places to sit and watch the parades and fireworks, and there's some surprisingly excellent food. Since I live here, my trips to Disney tend to be short and focused. For a first-timer, it can be overwhelming, especially if you're trying to get your money's worth. I see a lot of tired, grumpy tourists with kids at the end of the night trying to stick it out because it was such an investment to go even though their kids are cranky and ready to go to bed. That's something to consider, for sure. I love going, but I don't know that I would if I had to pay full price.

Good luck with everything. :)
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: With This Herring on December 27, 2016, 04:06:19 PM
Sounds like getting a translation of our assistance card won't be enough, so we'll ask our doctor to write something for us in English. Or, more probably, writing something in English and asking the doctor to sign it.

I don't have any experience with disabilities issues, but it will help you if that doctor's note is on the doctor's letterhead.  This will make it look more official.
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: FIFoFum on December 27, 2016, 05:28:08 PM
For museums and historical sites, there is usually an information booth or center (sometimesat the visitor center/entrance) where they can tell you what they have in terms of assistive listening devices, print material, or other guides for someone who is deaf or has hearing loss.
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: MerryMcQ on December 29, 2016, 08:17:23 AM
I am deaf, a US citizen, and lived in California for several years, and went to Disneyland all the time. So here's some advice for traveling with a deaf family member.

In the US, there is no such thing as an assistance card or special fares for the disabled in the way you are used to. It's very different here and not worth the hassle for a brief visit - particularly since your kids are the ones with the disability, not the adults.

Don't bother with the disabled fares for travel. The majority of bus systems have 2 fares - a full fare, and a discounted fare. Children and  disabled pay the same rate. You won't get a "companion fare" for most systems because your child has a disability. Second, every city has a different bus system, so every city has different rules - but in general, the process to get a disabled (adult) pass, is that a doctor licensed in that state has to fill out a multi-page form, sign, and you take it to the bus main office. Then they wait about 2 - 4 weeks, they call the doctor, confirm that she or he actually signed the form, and then mail you a letter (in another 2 - 4 weeks) asking you to come in and get a photo id taken at their main office. So you need a local doctor, and several weeks of waiting time, to get an adult disabled pass. Which, of course, your kids wouldn't qualify for, being children. :)

In the US there is no identification for being disabled, and most places don't have a separate entrance fee for the disabled. Kids generally do have a lower cost entrance fee for museums, movies, etc. It's presumed that an adult will be with the kid, and that adult has to pay full fare. Don't expect to get any special financial considerations because your kids have disabilities.

In the US, most accommodations for the Deaf are for those who use ASL (American Sign Language) and read English. Almost every public museum will have ASL days (where they have ASL interpreters onsite all day long) or you can call ahead (generally 2 - 4 weeks notice) and they will have an ASL interpreter available for your visit. Since you're not from the US, I doubt you all speak ASL! :)

There are a lot of tips for traveling with someone who is Deaf though. Make sure you let the hotels know you have a Deaf family member and that they ensure your room has Closed Captions (CC) on the TV and a light-up smoke detector. Disney has a Closed Caption device you can check out and your kiddo can wear around his/her neck, so when you go into different attractions, the speech is printed (in English) on the handheld device for them to read. Movie theaters all have something similar (but again, in English). There is a Deaf community center in almost every major city, you can email them and ask about particularly Deaf-friendly activities in the city. They aren't all linked, and most are completely non-profit and run by volunteers, but they are great resources. Just Google "Deaf Community center in xx city" and you'll get some results.

I'd suggest you also go onto the TSA's website and download their disability card. It is a blue card you write in the disability of your kid, and the kid carries it with them. When you go through airport screening, the kiddo can hand the card to the screener, and they'll be a bit more careful and patient when they see your child is Deaf.

Finally, the Deaf community is super welcoming and friendly. If you can learn any ASL before your trip, and you see someone signing, feel free to introduce yourself and your kid, and you'll have instant friends almost every time.
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: gaja on December 29, 2016, 09:38:51 AM
Thank you very much, Merry. Very useful information; so many things we take for granted that we will have to plan for in the US. Open captions is standard here, partly because we don't dub foreign films but use Norwegian subcaptions. But also because the deaf community has fought to get the major TV channels to use open cations on as many shows as possible. We have never tried a closed caption devise, it will be fun to test.

We use NTS, but the kid learns ASL and BSL in school as second languages, in addition to spoken English. ASL is very close to NTS, since the father of Norwegian sign languages adapted it from Danish sign language, which stems from the same French school as ASL. BSL is much harder to learn.

I will look for the community centers and see if there are any activities that fit us. I tried looking for a national deaf organization to get an overview, but that apparently won't work. :) This is the card we should print?
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: terran on December 29, 2016, 09:47:21 AM
This isn't really disability related, but if you've never been to the US and given all the talk of buses, it might not be something you know: public transit here is NOTHING like as good as it is in Europe. Only major cities (like San Francisco) have anything that approaches the options you probably take for granted. You may want to consider renting a car depending on on where you'll be visiting
Title: Re: Travelling in the US (CA) with disabled children
Post by: MerryMcQ on December 29, 2016, 06:17:56 PM
Hi Gaja,

Yes, that's the TSA card. I carry it with me for flights and it can be a real help, particularly when you've got cranky airport screeners. They almost always slow down and act a lot more patient when they get one of those cards handed to them. You can also ask for an escort through the airport (from your airline) and/or a wheelchair to meet you at the gate. Some of our airports are quite large and if your child is already fatigued, the walk can seem quite overwhelming.

And yes, Terran is right. The US bus system is very non-user friendly. Buses are run by specific cities, and city buses generally don't connect between cities. Sometimes within a city, you'll actually have multiple bus companies. So if you were in LA and wanted to go to San Diego (about a 2 hour drive), you'd have to take LA buses, Amtrak train, and then San Diego buses (actually you might take 2 trains, and a bus in San Diego - I'm not sure where the trains switch). Each would require a different ticket; Amtrak trains require reservations, but city buses don't... It would probably take 5 or 6 hours. Or more. :/ I can't even imagine trying to explore California by public transit only.

The west coast of the US is really car-centric, if you want to travel between cities.

I don't know of a national Deaf organization. Each city and state does things differently. But no matter where you are in the US, if you see someone signing, they'll probably be very happy to stop and meet you and your kid. And probably expect that if sometimes, a complete stranger will see your family signing and introduce themselves. ASL is pretty popular as a second language in schools and a lot of hearing teenagers/young adults get excited when they see someone signing. :)

If you're in LA, one of the cool things to visit is the La Brea Tar Pits. There's a guided tour (maybe email them to see if they have ASL interpreter that can join you?) and it's not too much walking. My pre-teen kids loved it.