For someone who is not visibly disabled, using a wheelchair is humbling. I have learned over the years though, that the ability to enjoy a vacation with my family is much more important than my personal pride.
December 26 – January 2 we took an Eastern Caribbean cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines (never again, but that’s a story for later). My husband and I in one cabin; my mother and two daughters in the other. NCL messed up the reservation and did not put us in disabled cabins. We were able to get their room changed, but not ours. Thank goodness, I am not in a wheelchair full-time. In fact, I am usually only in one for extremely long physically challenging days (like doing Disney World or something). But we take a travel wheelchair and a cane just in case.
But like the three blind fates sharing an eye, we had one wheelchair to share among us. Turns out, my daughter and mother used it more than I did. In fact, I don’t think I used it at all – although I could’ve benefitted from it. Canes often hurt more than they help, because of my wrists.
In addition, we also forgot the footrests..so for my mom, holding her feet up hurt worse than walking.
We provided our tips for traveling, but here are my notes for traveling with a shared wheelchair:
- Be prepared to have to explain to the crew (ship and plane) ad nauseam how one is disabled and sometimes in a wheelchair and sometimes not.
This includes working with airline personnel for assisted boarding of one or more of our party who may or may not be in a wheelchair or using a cane. Mobility challenged is not always visible. In my case, my biggest challenge with flying is balance issues on the ramp.
- Be prepared to explain it again.
- Learn to ignore the looks of disdain on people’s faces when they see you out of the wheelchair.
People can be unknowingly cruel. Sometimes they are outright insulting and demeaning, but there are times when they are genuinely confused. Unfortunately, most people choose to first go to the insults and scathing doubts. Meeting this so often can have a chilling effect on us using a mobility aid, which then has a chilling effect on our enjoyment of our outing.
- The wheelchair can serve as a walker.
Oh, this is the best benefit of all. One can sit in the wheelchair and the other can push it, effectively using it as a walker. Or even if no one needs to sit in it, it can easily carry belongings (and shopping bags) that would be impossible for us to carry. This can detract from shopping (gasp!), so in this case, the chair really does help. Yes, a cart would help as well, but 1) pulling something makes my arms go numb – which is why I cannot pull a suitcase and absolutely love the 360 swivel bags and 2) most carts cannot serve the dual purpose of a walker.
As stated in the beginning, sinking my pride does not compete with being able to enjoy vacation time with my family. I rarely have to use a wheelchair, but the number of times I have collapsed in public because my legs gave out or my back seized up (and I truly mean seized like a Norse god slugged me with Thor’s ginormous hammer) has convinced me that an ounce of prevention is worth that pound of cure. Although – some paramedics are incredibly hot. That kind of thing truly puts a damper on a family outing.
So we sink the pride and try to ignore the judgmental idgets sharing the air around us.
– and by the way, it is amazing the number of IQ points one loses between standing on two legs and sitting on 4 wheels. The unconscious discrimination is appalling.