Vacationing In A Wheelchair

It was 10 years in September since I became paralyzed due to an NMOSD (neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder) flare up. I finally have both my hips replaced and I am slowly regaining more strength. When I first lost my ability to walk I didn’t think I would ever be able to travel again.

However in May of 2017, I rode my first plane while being in a wheelchair and have been traveling ever since. This summer I was traveling, and I’ve noticed even though ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) is put in place it is still not that accessible for wheelchair users. Below I will explain my experiences.

Airplanes with a wheelchair

When I decide to fly I always choose Delta Airlines because they were the first company I rode with since being in the wheelchair. When I book I always call the disability line. They ask for my wheelchair size, length, and weight. I explain to them that I need an aisle chair to transfer to, because I am unable to walk on the plane. Prior to getting to the plane I let the reservation person know that I need assistance getting through the terminal as well.

When I book, Delta bumps me to the comfort seats for more leg room and room to transfer to my seat along with whomever I am riding with. I board first and am the last to get off. I get help all the way to the rental car place if it’s in the airport.

Seems pretty smooth. However, it’s not always the case. Sometimes the airport doesn’t have enough people to help give assistance so I have to wait. One time I almost missed my flight.

More recently I flew to Las Vegas. The lady who booked my flight did not bump me to the comfort seats, so when I got on the plane I had a difficult time transferring to my seat because I didn’t have the extra leg room. I was very uncomfortable for the long flight.

Rental cars and wheelchairs

Even though I get help from the airplane to baggage claim, it can be a big inconvenience getting to the rental car location. Las Vegas airport rentals are separate from the airport. You have to take a separate shuttle.

Once the people helped me off the plane to baggage claim that was it. If I did not have my family with me there was no way I could travel by myself and carry my luggage to the shuttle to ride to rental cars - which is about 7-10 minutes away if driving.

The rental car company I used in Las Vegas did not make it clear that they were offsite, which was a total of 15 minutes from the airport. When I called to reserve the rental I explained that I am in a wheelchair, and asked if their shuttle was wheelchair accessible. The representative assured me that it was. That was a lie, a van pulled up to pick me up and it sat so high that an able bodied person needed a step stool to get in the van.

Thank God I have been getting stronger and my brother was with me to assist with me getting up that van.

When it comes to rental car companies it would be nice if they had so many cars that have hand controls in them to rent out. It’s 2023 and being disabled in a wheelchair is not how it used to be years ago. Technology has given wheelchair users a little more independence.

Overall, it would be nice if all rental car companies could guarantee accessible vehicles to and from airports for those who need it when traveling. And in the future have a few options of rental cars with hand controls.

Hotels and wheelchairs

I’ve stayed in plenty of hotels over the years. More recently I have noticed that changes should be made when it comes to hotels and their accessible rooms. Every time I try to book a hotel room with an accessible roll-in shower, it always only has 1 king bed - as if wheelchair users always travel by themselves.

I don’t get it, if anything we will be traveling with 1 or more people to get help. Why always a king bedroom in (majority of the time) the only room available. A resort in Hilton Head told me in order to have an accessible bathroom I had to have booked a 3 bedroom. I was only with 3 other people. We didn’t need that much space. What if I was just by myself?

One hotel in Nashville stated they had roll-in shower rooms with 2 queens. I was happy, because it was listed that I would have a nice view as well. When I got to the hotel I was disappointed, because I was told that the accessible room doesn’t have a nice view. I was basically facing a wall when I looked out the window and the room was very far from the elevator.

So do they think just because we are in a wheelchair we don’t like to enjoy a nice view while staying at a hotel? Also a lot of the rooms with roll-in shower accessibility are far down the hall away from the elevators. I don’t understand what sense that makes.

ADA requirements

I understand that when ADA requirements were put in place it opened some doors for people who need it to be comfortable. However, some changes need to happen.

I feel that representatives that actually use the different accommodations such as myself should sit on that board to help bridge the gap of what will make sense for ADA requirements.

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