Train travel has many advantages. You can leave the driving to someone else and sit back and enjoy the scenery. When nature calls you can just roll down the aisle to an accessible restroom. And if you get hungry there are many tasty onboard choices. Additionally, unlike auto travel, you can also enjoy an adult beverage during your journey. And the good news is, not only does Amtrak offer wheelchair-accessible seating, but they also give disabled passengers and one companion a 10% discount off their fares. Ready to ride the rails? Then here’s how to book a wheelchair-accessible seat on Amtrak.
Check That Box!
Making a reservation for a wheelchair-accessible seat is pretty straightforward; however there is one critical component to the process. Go to www.Amtrak.com and enter your departure station, your destination and your travel dates. On the next line, select the number of travelers, and then check the box that says “passenger with disability or assistance needed”. It’s easy to miss, but it’s an essential step in order to get an accessible seat.
After you check that box, a disability assistance questionnaire will appear. The first window asks about your disability, while the second window asks if you need an Amtrak wheelchair, or if you travel with a wheelchair or a cane. The third window determines your accessible seating preference, as it asks if you want to travel in your manual wheelchair, stow your collapsible wheelchair on board, or if you use a power wheelchair or scooter. The next window asks about service animals, and the final window has a few questions about station assistance. And if you need assistance with something not listed, you can always give them a call at (800) USA-RAIL to have it added to your profile.
After that you can select your train from the displayed choices and complete your reservation. If you are on a reservable train, you will automatically be assigned the accessible seating choice you selected. If you are traveling on a non-reservable train, then it will alert personnel to your accessible seating needs. If, on the other hand, you didn’t check the “disability box”, neither of these things will happen; and you won’t get an accessible seat.
If Things Go Wrong
Of course, sometimes people miss the check box and end up not being able to select a wheelchair-accessible seat on Amtrak. That was the case with one recent passenger on the Acela train out of New Jersey. He missed the check box and was assigned a standard seat. Since he needed an accessible seat he tried the online chat option to resolve the issue. The only solution they offered was to cancel his original reservation and rebook him in an accessible seat. Unfortunately, since the fare had gone up since he initially booked his ticket, he would of been charged nearly double his original fare just to get an accessible seat. It’s not Amtrak’s policy to charge disabled passengers more for an accessible seat, but the chat option just didn’t resolve things.
So the passenger reached out to everyone he could and eventually he worked his way up the ladder. Ultimately he was rebooked in an accessible seat at no additional charge, but it did take a lot of legwork on his part.
In the end, it’s important to remember that when you book a wheelchair-accessible seat on Amtrak it will be the same price as a standard seat. If you find that isn’t the case, or if you have been charged extra for an accessible seat in the past, then it’s time to contact Amtrak. According to an Amtrak spokesperson, they will make it right. They are adamant about not only going the extra mile to provide disabled passengers with accessible seating and assistance; but they also do it for the same price that non-disabled passengers pay. If you find that’s not the case, then give them a call at (800) USA-RAIL or use the online contact form at www.amtrak.com/contact-us/email.html to rectify the matter.