While plenty of changes have been made in recent years to make traveling with a disabled companion easier than in the past, such as disabled parking, early boarding for flights, wider doors, bigger public restrooms, and an increase in general public awareness, it doesn’t mean it is always an easy task.
In this post I will share some of the stories of traveling with my disabled son both in the U.S and abroad.
Jack has Cerebral Palsy and is wheelchair bound. He is bright and communicative, and a fun traveling companion. We have had many experiences over the last twenty years, and here are some of the good and the bad:
Theme parks work well.
Going to the front of the line at Disneyland is a particular pleasure – avoiding those
40-minute waits in the hot sun, while the other parents try to distract their kids as they wiggle about in frustration. Some of the ride attendants will even let you go round more than once when they see you have special needs. The park’s wide vistas, and no cars mean you don’t have to look for sidewalk access all the time. We have gone to three different Disney parks several times and always enjoyed it.
Flying is definitely a challenge.
The quality of airport support staff varies greatly. Some have no idea how to help lift a person into their seat or back into the chair. Their fumbling can cause embarrassment and also potential injury. I have ended up doing most of the lifting during seat transfers at airports.
When Jack was an eighth-grader we took a class trip to Washington, DC. The trip began with a 4:00 a.m. rendezvous at the school. By the time we arrived in DC the kids were tired and grumpy. Unfortunately, Jack and I held up the hotel transfer by 90-minutes as some Airport attendee took someone else off the plane using Jack’s wheelchair, no doubt thinking it was an airport chair.
Another time, when visiting Ireland, we held up the flight crew for over an hour because the ground staff was new to the job, and couldn’t find his chair.
We have also dealt with hotels only having one bed in wheelchair accessible rooms, not being able to book an accessible car in certain cities, being sent round in circles by unknowledgeable staff at sporting and musical events, and the classic; where Jack is patted down and has his shoes removed to check for bomb materials at every airport.
Many people have been helpful and gone out of their way to help us along the way,like the four gentlemen who helped carry Jack up to the Lincoln Memorial when their elevator was out of use.
All in all, traveling with a disabled person requires a lot of planning and persistence. In the next blog, I will share some practical tips on planning a trip and ‘traveling with disabilities.’
~Karl Power, CEO