September 5, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
Traveling comes with plenty of challenges, even in the best of conditions. And, as you well know, getting around as a wheelchair user, even locally, isn’t the easiest thing to do. So, now that you’re ready to go on your first vacation with your wheelchair, you may be bracing yourself for the worst. Here are some precautions you can take to make the whole experience a little bit easier.
This should probably really be at the top of everyone’s list of travel tips, shouldn’t it? There’s no way to predict the delays that can be caused by traffic, glitches in making connecting flights, and a thousand other variables. And I don’t need to tell you that traveling as a wheelchair user is only going to leave room for additional potential pitfalls. Leave yourself more of a time cushion than the worst case you might expect. This will hopefully minimize stressful last minute rushing and make the whole vacation experience that much more pleasant.
Legislation in the US has made airports some of the most wheelchair-accessible locations to be found. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not still room for some speed bumps. You’ll save yourself loads of trouble if you give the airline a call beforehand. You’ll want to alert them to the fact that you’re a wheelchair user, and even let them know what type of wheelchair you’re using. If you’ll be needing any sort of assistance, again, it’s advisable to let them know at this time, rather than potentially have to do this as the plane is boarding.
I wish there were really something that I could tell you that you could do to make the experience of going through the inevitable TSA security check even a little bit more bearable. I wish I could even make it a little less humiliating, and I can’t really do that either. The sad fact is that you won’t be able to pass through the metal detector or X-ray scanner in your wheelchair, so be ready for a pat down. Know your rights in this situation. For example, you do NOT need to leave your wheelchair during the security check, and that you’re entitled to be patted down by a TSA officer of the same gender as you. But don’t expect that every TSA employee will have done all the research that we’re doing on these matters.
I’m sure you’re doing your homework and making sure that the hotels you book state that they’re “ADA compliant”. But who knows what that really means, or if anyone has verified that claim. When you’re traveling in the US, or staying abroad in a major chain hotel, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be reasonably accessible. But why take a chance? Call the hotel to alert them to any special needs that you may have, and to make sure that they can accommodate you.