Traveling with a disability is always interesting. If traveling in the United States, be aware of what the Federal and State laws say with regards to public places including airports. Airplanes actually fall under the Air Carriers Access Act, which does not completely match up with the ADA, thus creating some difficulties for people with non-standard disabilities like ourselves. More about this later.
Also be aware of the laws that govern hotels and inns, etc. Rental car places are subject to the same rules, but often they have a specific number of cars on the lot with hand-controls and no other type of accommodation because they are not often asked about it. Plan ahead. Call, request what you need ahead of time, and plan for negative contingencies. things like adapted car seats will most likely need to be brought by you. Remember that many Asian cars have smaller cabins that may work for you without any adaptation.
When traveling to and in other countries, be aware of their local laws. You may be surprised as to the similarities as well as differences in various places around the world. You can tell alot about the cultural value of disability by the types of accommodations that are available.
Back to Airports and Airplanes: People our height and weight did fairly well in the U.S. with air travel prior to 9/11. The ADA and Air Carriers Access Act provided coverage for us if we knew how to ask for it. There is something called Cognitive Assistance or Disability Assistance depending on the airport you are at. This is primarily a service for minors traveling alone or people with developmental disabilities (which we have) who need cognitive assistance to figure out how to get through the maze of an airport. How it works to my advantage is the fact that I have low weight and can't possibly carry my carry on (just as heavy as anyone else's carry on luggage) all the way through an airport. I ask for this assistance, state emphatically that I, because I walk, do not need the wheelchair they always try to bring, simply need assistance carrying my bags to the gate. There is an official CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) that this falls under, but I do not remember it off the top of my head. This way I still get to carry my laptop onto the plane to do my business with alongside my neighbors and am not forced to put it in checked baggage to get tossed around, damaged, lost, etc. Why should I lose time and money not working when those around me can simply due to my disability?
Since 9/11 this has gotten a little more difficult. Companies have been hired in many airports (outsourced) to do security which also depending on the size of the airport includes this type of assistance. Don't ask me why, I do not understand it. These are unionized, contracted workers whose response is usually: "we can't touch luggage because of liability if something were to be in one of these bags and we assisted it in getting on a plane--unless you sit in the wheelchair (which I don't need) and we put the luggage on you (which is heavy and not ok)". If this should happen, the correct response is to quote the CFR which I unfortunately do not have here and remind them that Federal law outweighs their union contract. Their eyes will glaze over and they still will not assist in the way you need. At this point, calmly ask for the CRO (Crisis Response Officer) on duty. At this point you will either get accommodated quickly, or the CRO will appear and will accommodate you then. The more we help get this enforced by speaking up, the sooner it will become a non-issue.
Cruise Lines/Ships--Case law has so far supported U.S. laws when the company has its offices in the U.S. or its territories, and/or has ships sailing in U.S. waters. Always inquire beforehand and plan for contingencies