What is traveling like when you or your companion is in a wheelchair, on a scooter, or walking with the help of a cane or a walker? It depends on whether the sidewalk has been torn up by tree roots and left unrepaired, whether there are curb cuts, whether stairs have handrails. It depends on whether a hotel doorway is wide enough to admit a wheelchair, whether there are grab bars in the shower, whether the elevator is working.
Here is some help in finding out.
Michell Haase travels with her daughter, Kelsey, who has spina bifida and is a wheelchair athlete. Spurred by the difficulties she and Kelsey encountered while traveling, last year she launched a website, TravelinWheels, which gives people with disabilities and their traveling companions a forum to share information about destinations and their accessibility.
Among the features on TravelinWheels are guides to some destinations -- this month the spotlight is on London, just in time for the Paralympic Games, which open Aug. 29. The site has links to downloadable Health Radio podcasts aimed at travelers with disabilities, Michell’s blog, a newsletter and other information. You can find her website here.
Haase also offers these tips for traveling by air. She made these recommendations for Spring Break travel, but this advice makes sense year-round.
T – TSA – Visit TravelinWheels.com to print off a letter stating your rights as a traveler with disabilities and share them with the TSA screener. They deal with so many travelers in a day and they may not remember, so a friendly reminder is always helpful.
R – Remember to bring bubble wrap and duct tape to wrap your wheelchair or walker. This will help prevent any in-flight damage when they are checked at the gate. The last thing you need is a damaged chair upon arrival.
A – Alert your carrier to your needs and arrive early to prevent any issues with last minute gate changes.
V – Visibility is key. Locate a waiting spot by the airline gate check-in area and stay there until you board. This way you are visible to the agent who is often dealing with more than 100 passengers in a 15-20 minute period. This will help them remember they have a passenger who needs priority boarding.
E - Eliminate use of cash. Consider using credit cards as much as possible to prevent cash from being dropped, etc.
L – Leave identification, prescriptions and any other “need-to-get to” paperwork with you by way of a lanyard for easy accessibility.