Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Travel with disabilities

I love holidays, well at least the idea of them!

Ok, you roll up at the airport, and drag your suitcase, while carrying your hand luggage up to the check in desk, luckily usually not too far, and get checked in, and pray that your name is on the list of people allocated a wheelchair, (usually, in fairness, all the problems with this are usually on the homeward part of the holiday). You then have to sit and wait in the corner for someone to turn up with said chair. (never, ever offer to walk any further than to go to the waiting area, or your name will be whipped off that list before you realise what has happened!) You are then taken to the departure gate, and placed in position ready for a quick take off when the flight is announced ready for boarding. Now, this is when you try to be really charming, and hint at decent tip, if there is any chance of a wee stop at duty free to pick up your holiday booze, some are so pleasant and helpful, while others just refuse as not on their job description. But don’t despair, you can usually find one near to your departure point where you can manage to either send your travelling companion, or get them to push you!
As you are in the chair you are taken on the plane first - if they get back for you and don’t forget! Usually this is my flight from Edinburgh to Heathrow, so just time for a coffee and rest in flight, before the next stage, remembering that no matter when your connection flight is leaving, or how far away it is, you will be last off the plane. Always take this into account when making bookings!

If all has gone well, someone with a chair will be waiting when the plane has emptied and they already know where we are all going, and when we need to be there. So off wee shoot, and another good point is that you - and companion - get through all the searches and passport control etc first, so you can get taken to the departure gate and again left for the announcement for boarding. Same happens again here, 1st on, last off, and out to taxi rank and hotel here we come.
One of the problems many of us face on the journey out, in particular, is the transport of prescription drugs, and of course if you are on any kind of injection, it might need to be kept cool. It is always advisable to carry all drugs in hand luggage-to make sure they don’t get lost- and injections in a cool pack, it is also worth checking with the airport if a doctors letter is
advisable, remembering the xray machine will show all these syringes.

Well we have arrived now, between jet lag, exhaustion, etc etc I usually try to time my arrival for late afternoon, so by the time you arrive at the hotel, check in, unpack etc maybe have a wee wander for a look around & have a snack, its time for bed. I usually push myself to make sure all this is done, as it is horrible to wake up to it all in the morning. If you have injections that need to be kept cool I will have arranged for a wee fridge in room.

Normally I am on holiday with mother and neither of us would consider driving abroad, so all outing are arranged there on tours. These can make or break the holiday for me, as the way the tour manager handles your disability can make such a difference. I have had some fabulous ones who quietly and unobtrusively will ensure you are ok, and never make you feel like a nuisance, and you also get the other kind…..
Then there is the return journey to look forward to. I have to admit that each time in the last few years that mum and I have been to the USA, when we land in Heathrow looking for the wheelchair to get us to the connecting flight, despite having cleared with the cabin crew that you are on the list, there is always some reason why no one is there to meet you. Usually that there are not enough chairs or people to push them! I don’t think I have once made the connecting flight as booked, luckily there are frequent flights so get home eventually. But then this where I have seen the most infuriating sight, of elderly, poorly, disabled people, on realising they might not make a connecting flight, leap with gay abandon from the wheelchair and gallop up the corridors and disappear round the bend!!! No wander there is such a shortage of chairs and staff, when so many are being used by people who, quite frankly don’t need it! This has not been something I saw only the once, I saw it every time, several of the people in chairs would simply say they were not prepared to miss their connecting flights and walk off. Once we had to get out the chairs to be lead to a waiting bus to take us to the plane, and I kid you not I was manhandled out the way by some of these people who had been in chairs to make sure they got a choice of seats on the bus and would be 1st off and therefore 1st on the plane. The laugh is I got the dirty looks for taking so long…………………….

So yes I love the idea of holidays, but sometimes wander if it’s all worth it.

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