First of all: I love to travel! Visiting new places, different cultures, different nature, different buildings etc. There’s so much to see in this world and if I had all the necessary means to do it, I would travel all around it. I used to dream of working internationally and living in a place in a foreign country for a couple of years and then go to another. I’ve put that dream aside for now, but I still can make traveling plans!
Being disabled doesn’t mean you can’t travel. It does take a lot more prep work though and sadly, I still see that special disabled travels are more expensive. Just like in your own city, not everything is accessible (often more things aren’t than they are, but we should try not to focus on that). You can still visit things, feel the different atmosphere and enjoy your holiday!
If I have to choose a means of transport (and of course it depends on the destination), I actually prefer traveling by plane. Yes, it might take longer to travel by plane on short distances, because you have to be there 2 hours early, but I find it much more comfortable. It depends on the company, but getting help is much easier this way, including getting on and off the plane. And when you know how it works with that airline company, it’s a lot easier!
Things you might need to arrange for your flight
1. Register the (electric) wheelchair or other aid, such as a guidance dog, you’ll be taking with you on board (sometimes you even have to register crutches)
2. Get all the things necessary to be allowed to fly with your medication
3. Ask for special assistance
When you’re going to a place for vacation and also have a returning flight, you need to do this for both flights (they don’t do that automatically) and make sure that they’ve also informed the other airport about the special assistance (where you’ll land en on your returning flight you’ll depart from it).
The services the airline companies offer can differ. Some won’t allow you to bring a guidance dog and some won’t be able to fly you, if you can’t sit in the chair by yourself (some companies offer services so you can fly stretched out, if you’re unable or not allowed to sit with help for example or they have a special device that can bring you to the chair if you can’t walk from the doors of the plane towards your seat).
There’s a part on the site of the airline, where you can find all the information you need about special equipment you’re taking on board. Sometimes this isn’t very easy to find and translation issues might occur. I only have experience with bringing your own manual wheelchair and crutches and only within Europe. I know you can be allowed to bring an electric wheelchair too, but special rules apply (for example about the battery). You often need to send an e-mail to the airline company, in which you’ll have to include if it’s a manual or electric wheelchair, the different sizes, if you can fold it (and the sizes when it’s folded), it’s weight etc. For as far as I know, they aren’t allowed to charge you for bringing this (this may be different for sports wheelchairs).
Usually, when you check-in the ground flight attendants will ask you how much your wheelchair weights (again). Make sure, that when you want to use your own wheelchair untill boarding and have it ready for you when you leave the plane, they put a special tag on it (I’ve only seen them in pink) saying ‘Ramp delivery’. Also make sure that you take removable parts with you, since the luggage handlers aren’t known of being careful. Things can get lost (or damaged). So if you have a removable cushion, back support, handles etc. take them with you (the airline should inform you about this as well).
If you can’t walk stairs, make sure they printed this on your boarding pass as well (I always let them know before, but usually it’s still wrong in the computer). When it isn’t a very big flight, they probably have the plane located a bit further away from the gate and there’ll be stairs to enter. There are many possibilities to get into the airplane without having to walk and this depends on the airline company, but also on how big the flight is and how big the airport is. I sat in special cars with these elevator devices so you won’t have to walk towards the plane and won’t have to walk stairs. I’ve also had a ‘walking chair’ (very uncomfortable and slow, but it was a funny experience for once. My friends really enjoyed watching me).
[Photo of a transportation chair with wheels and the ability to climb stairs]
I have to talk about the other things you might need some other time, otherwise this post is going to be way too long. There’s just too much I can tell about this subject and I don’t want to dash this off. I hope I can throw in some of my experiences too (these are wheelchair stories after all)!