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What It’s Like to Travel When You Use a Wheelchair

Wheelchair travel

Figuring out what to do to get through the trip without hassle is just the beginning of what travelers with disabilities need to think about.

The majority of this planet remains inaccessible for travelers with special needs. Hence, getting around places can leave tourists in dangerous and humiliating situations.

Indeed, jet-setting wheelchair users take on a sea of logistical challenges to fulfill their desire to see the world, racking up frequent flier miles and passport stamps along the way. So, for a closer look into their world, here’s what it’s like to travel when you have a disability.

Stressful journeys

Flying, in particular, can cause emotional and physical stress when you use a wheelchair. Travelers will have to work with airport staff to transition from their own wheelchair to a transfer chair before boarding. They then need to move from the transfer seat to their plane seat. If they can’t do it on their own, they may have to ask someone from the airline crew to help them get into the seat.

Aside from worrying about their physical safety, travelers with disabilities also fear that their wheelchairs and scooters will be damaged by flight crews. This concern forces travelers to take extra precautions to minimize the risk of damage to their chairs. This involves bubble wrapping delicate pieces, and attaching detailed instructions to help crew members move and store their wheelchairs safely.

Planning every last detail

Many wheelchair users say they need 6 to 12 months to plan for a trip. Thus, traveling on a whim usually isn’t an option for people with disabilities.

One of the biggest areas of concern is lodging. The term “accessible” can have different meanings from hotel to hotel and country to country. You see, travelers have varying levels of independence and particular needs from a hotel room. And as such, merely seeing a room labeled “accessible” on a hotel’s website isn’t enough to guarantee it will meet their exact needs. Individuals who travel on their own often need to call the hotel ahead of time to ask for exact specifications, such as the width of doorways, the height of beds, and whether there’s a roll-in shower.

All of these little inconveniences can often be overcome, but can also add up to an overall frustrating, exhausting experience. Travelers with disabilities say it’s worth the extra effort making calls upfront to minimize stress once they check-in.

Furthermore, the question of “How am I going to get from the airport to the hotel?” often requires careful planning weeks before arriving.

Still, despite all of these barriers that travelers with disabilities have to encounter, seeing the world’s most famous sites still inspires many people to jump on a long-haul flight. Most importantly, it allows them to connect with people from other cultures in a deeper way, often fostered by the wheelchair itself. So, don’t let these harsh facts discourage you to treat your heart out and travel around the world. There might be challenges along the way, but the experiences and lessons you’ll get will certainly make everything worth it.

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