Traveling is certainly not impossible for a person who has a disability, but it does require a little bit of planning. I can’t accurately discuss the disability of blindness or deafness because I am not trained or acquainted with them, however in the past couple of years I have become well acquainted with the issues involved in traveling while wheelchair-bound.
I have primary progressive MS and in past couple of years have lost my ability to walk (in fact I can’t even stand anymore). I don’t generally like car rides that take more than a couple of hours because it is very difficult to get seated in a comfortable position. Since losing my legs, I have not tried a cruise again nor have I tried a long train ride like I used to do every now and then.
I have, however, taken a couple of airplane trips while using my wheelchair. I find it easier to travel with a manual wheelchair then the scooter or an electric wheelchair because airlines always have questions about how to fold the scooter up in the cargo bin and questions about their batteries. My arms are no longer strong enough to move the manual chair by myself, so when I travel even on a short trip I have to have somebody with me. Since my body strength has gone so far downhill, I take a female friend or helper in order to help me dress and undress if it’s an overnight trip.
A couple of months ago, I traveled from Denver to Minneapolis on Frontier Airlines. I took my son and niece with me (my son, to help transfer me, and my niece, just in case we got stuck overnight. Our plan was to take the first flight out in the morning and the last flight back the same night. We were only going for one day to see the Mall of America.
I got our tickets online as usual, but I also called the reservation agents. I told them my confirmation number and asked them to make note of the fact that I am in a wheelchair. That way they could be prepared with an aisle chair (a very skinny wheelchair that fits down the narrow aisle of the airplane). A regular (or power chair) needs to be left at the end of the jetway where you get onto the plane. Some people are able to walk the short distance to their seat, but I am not. Usually the airline will try to seat people .with disabilities near the front of airplane
t is also wise to check on what type of aircraft you will be taking. Some of the smaller planes require the passengers to climb a mobile stairway from the tarmac to the plane. My son carried me up the steps one time when we were faced with this
One thing that I have also figured out is that being in a wheelchair will cause you to spend more time at the security area. They often have a separate area for wheelchairs to go through, but that means if there are other wheelchair passengers ahead of you, you could have a wait. They also spend a lot more time closely inspecting a person in a wheelchair than those that walk through the metal detectors. I guess they figure I could easily hide a bomb under my butt. It has taken at least double the time for me to get through security than my walking friends on the last couple of trips I have taken,
You may also need to allow extra time for finding the elevators since almost every airport I’ve been to has at least two or three flights of steps or escalators, and the elevator is not always near the escalator. It may also take longer to get around crowds and lines with the wheelchair.
The last trip we took, to the Minneapolis airport, was particularly disabled friendly. The elevators were easy to find, everything was well marked, and it wasn’t a long way from the arrival gate to where we boarded the light rail train for a short ride to the mall of America. The train entry was level with where we were standing to get on, so there was no need to go to a special area to get the wheelchair on. We had no trouble getting around the mall and didn’t run into any difficulty until it came time to catch the shuttle to the hotel. In that case, we were lucky to have big strong drivers and helpful fellow passengers to lift me in the wheelchair up onto the shuttle.
When we landed, we were the last to get off the plane. This made good sense to me because for the agents to get the aisle chair to the row I was in and transfer me is time-consuming. It took that long to get my wheelchair out of the cargo bay to the airplane door anyway. I would hope if we were in a hurry to charge to another flight that it would be handled differently.
Don’t forget to check on the handicap accessible rooms at any hotel you plan to stay at. These rooms are generally on the first floor and have larger bathrooms with rails around the toilet. The room was still a very tight fit for maneuvering in and at the last-place we stayed in, the bed was high from the ground making it hard for me to get into. Once we were stuck on the second floor and when we took the elevator to come down for dinner, the elevator got stuck for half an hour.
Check accessibility of the places you plan to visit on your trip. Restaurants and hotels are usually prepared for wheelchairs, but many attractions are not. Being a light house fan, I was disappointed that I could no longer climb to the top of the lighthouses. I did find one that had a lift so I could at least get into the keeper’s house. At amusement parks we’ve gone to, there is usually a separate entrance (going up the exit away) to get on the rides. Many places I’ve gone we found a ramp near the stairs, but others (being old and historic part of nature) simply didn’t have a way for me to get in or through the attraction.
I’m sure every airline is slightly different and every situation can be slightly different also. For instance we found the crew when we were landing in Denver much more friendly and helpful than the crew when we were leaving there. Don’t hesitate to go out on an adventure just because you’re in a wheelchair. Just do your research on your destination and allow extra time, but get out and have a good time.