Friday, November 7, 2008

Traveling Tips Part 1: Renting a car if you have a Disability

In the past 15 years since I have been using a wheelchair, traveling has never been easy, but I don’t let it stop me. Just a few weeks ago I had to go to Atlanta, GA, and I decided to rent a car. I have only rented a car one time before, and I couldn’t remember what rental company I used. I got online and started searching different rental car company websites to see which could provide me with the assistive devices I needed, like hand controls. At first my initial search was frustrating because you have to navigate your way through each of the websites to see if they even offered options for rental cars like hand controls for people with disabilities.

When I first went on the Avis website, it didn’t jump right out at me that they provided services for people with disabilities. What I had to do was type in “disabilities” under their search engine. They had an entire page titled “Special Equipment”, and which showed that they provided different options like hand controls, transfer boards, swivel seats, panoramic mirrors, and spinner knobs. To make the reservation, first I had to just make a regular reservation online, and then call the “Special Equipment” reservations phone number to tell them specifically what I needed. You have to make your request at least one day in advance so they can accommodate the request for special equipment.

I arrived really early in the morning at the airport because I had taken a red-eye flight, so when I went to the Avis counter to pick up the car to the lady behind the counter asked if I could wait about a half hour. What I realized is that everyone else had the option to take a shuttle over to the place you pick up the Avis rental cars, but that was not an option for me. The shuttle that takes people over was not wheelchair accessible, and did not have a lift. It was about 7:30 in the morning when I got there, and the lady was all by herself. She said once her replacement got there around 8:00, then she would walk over with me to where the car would be dropped off. While at first I was irritated that I couldn’t just hop on the Avis shuttle and go get the car by myself, it was actually easier that they just drove the car over. It saved me less transfers and less time of me carrying around my luggage, but it would be nice for the company to have at least one accessible shuttle. When I got the car I specifically had asked for a two door vehicle because it is easier to get my wheelchair in and out of the car, but instead they upgraded me to a larger 4-door car at no extra cost. They probably thought they were doing me a favor by upgrading me, but they didn’t ask me about it, and I would have preferred a two door car.

When my trip was over, I went to the rental car return area of the airport; I pulled up and waved my handicap placard out the window. Someone came over to me; I explained to them that I needed to be driven to the airport since their shuttles didn’t accommodate my wheelchair. They said no problem, and someone drove me to my gate. It saved me time and energy from having to get out of the car, take a shuttle, and carry my entire luggage with me. I also appreciated their customer service because they were very professional and asked me numerous times what else they could do to make my travels easier. When the lady drove me back over to the gate, I asked her if a lot of people with disabilities rented cars from Avis and she said that it is now almost part of her daily routine. I was surprised when I was getting out of the car that the lady had already put my wheelchair together, when most people don’t even know how to put my wheels on my wheelchair.

If I am traveling alone it can be a little stressful trying to get around, but I love traveling and I don’t let it stop me. My travels always end up turning into some kind of adventure. So to anyone that has a disability and you want to rent a car, give Avis a try and I hope you a have a good experience like I had. Here is a link to all of the information you need on their website:

Tammy Wilber
~Happy Travels~
(By the way, I do not work for Avis; I just wanted to share my positive experience about renting a car with their company)

1 comment:

Thomas said...

For people who have been using a wheelchair, moving around the city can be a challenge. I find your 'can do' attitude very inspiring. We all encounter difficult situations at some point in our lives. However, it is our call whether to let these difficulties stop us from enjoying what we want to do. Stay positive!

Thomas Wright