Traveling with a paraplegic (PT. 1)

Anyone who has ever traveled knows how difficult it can be. The planning, the packing, making sure your pets are taken care of, getting there and realizing you forgot something (you always forget something. Usually something pretty important. But there is always SOMETHING you’ve forgotten to pack.) 

Add in a physical disability and packing becomes double the trouble. There is so much more to pack, and you CANNOT forget anything. Medical items are crucial for everyday functioning and all but impossible to buy at any given store. A small example, Gimp uses intermittent catheters (AKA, a new one every time instead of using one fixed catheter.) We usually try to take at least double the amount he will need while we are out and about because plans change and sometimes things fail and it’s inevitable if we don’t we will need them. You can’t just stop at a local drugstore and buy these things, they have to be prescribed and filled at a pharmacy just like any drug you take. 

Now add to this a shower chair, bandages, compression stockings, medications, etc and an overnight trip now requires a suitcase. Add in my excessive packing problems (I might need that! What if we do this, then I’ll need that outfit too!) and the bifold wheelchair Gimp uses and suddenly the little Jeep Patriot I loved so much is packed to the brim and we can barely fit in the car. And it doesn’t stop with the packing.

Don’t forget to check in with the place you’re staying to see just how “accessible” it really is. Their version of accessible and ours are often two very different things. We’ve been through it more than a few times. They think if there is no steps it’s all good, without taking into account how a disabled person showers or uses the bathroom. They don’t take into account whether he will be able to get into the hot tub or get around the furniture that’s stuffed everywhere. And it’s really not their fault, most bipeds (aka can walk normally) don’t see things from the same level and have never even sat in a wheelchair. But therein lies the problem. Most “accessible” places would not meet ADA standards if inspected, and those standards are already at a bare minimum.

I won’t even mention how difficult it is to travel in an airplane, that’s a whole nother story for a different day, although I promise to touch on that in a future post.

Now, I’m not saying we won’t travel. We absolutely love traveling and are willing to work around almost anything for a few nights. We can manage a “normal” hotel room for a few nights, but I would love to see more hotels actually bring in someone in a wheelchair, para and quad, to find the little things that could actually make a room “accessible”.

What challenges have you faced when traveling with a physical disability? Do you know of any hotel chains or bed and breakfasts that really did well in this area? Someday soon I’ll be compiling a list of areas we’ve been and the hotels we’ve experienced.

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