Many places are now more accessible for wheelchairs. From shopping malls and restaurants to sports stadiums and parks people who have to use wheelchairs are finding it easier to do more things than ever before, but traveling is still a sore point for many wheelchair users. This week BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner posted to the BBC website an article about his trials with air travel and particular airlines that are lagging way behind in providing wheelchair users with basic assistance. The article covers the pros and cons of traveling with a wheelchair and notes that while many airlines and airports have stepped up to provide wheelchairs users with assistance and accessibility, the experience of air travel can still be a trying ordeal.
If you use a wheelchair and are planning an upcoming flight there are some helpful tips you should heed to make the experience as hassle free as possible. First off, most airlines and airports are more than happy to assist wheelchair users as long as they know in advance. While the terminal will certainly have access ramps and elevators the boarding areas may need to be adjusted to accommodate someone in a wheelchair. Flight crews are under a lot of pressure and have many details to monitor so it’s recommended that when booking a flight you are clear that you will be traveling with a wheelchair so the airline can take the necessary steps to make your trip more pleasant. People in wheelchairs are often allowed to board first so they have time to be seated comfortably before the rush of passengers.
A point Gardner made in his article is that flights that are under four hours rarely have an onboard wheelchair which means once you are seated, there is little chance of using the plane toilet. Gardner prepares for these flights by not eating or drinking before and during the flight. This seems unfair but as any disabled person has learned, preparation can make a huge difference and adapting is a major part of living with a disability. Despite these obstacles air travel can be comfortable, but Gardner says it is up to the wheelchair user to tell flight crews what help he or she needs. Again, flight attendants have many people to tend to and though your needs are unique, you need to be clear about any assistance you require. Being persistent without being annoying is the best way to get what you need when traveling and you’ll be surprised how patient and accommodating flight crews and passengers are if you make clear what it is you need.
One other aspect of traveling is shipping your wheelchair. Currently airlines tend to wrap chairs in plastic for shipment although this doesn’t necessarily protect your chair from damage. At the Houston Abilities Expo, HDS Medallion was neighbors with Camp Crocker, inventor of Wheelchair Caddy, a new product. The Caddy was originally designed to make it easier for caretakers to lift chairs into cars or vans. It also provides a protective case for shipping your chair on airlines. They are very attractive and well made. Check them out on Facebook at Wheelchair Caddy.