Ode to the Travesty that is Air Travel
In this multi part post, I explore the challenges endured by those of us with limited mobility, and who must find ways to circumnavigate the unintentional barriers thrown in our way. Bottom line, don’t be afraid to travel with a wheelchair!
Air travel hasn’t changed much in the last one hundred years since the first commercial flight. The patience and waistlines of passengers and humanity of airlines have changed drastically in that same time.
Being a frequent flyer, not frequent enough to be respected in the Tri-State area, you become intimately familiar with certain annoyances common with air travel.
Anyone with a disability can tell you, there is an entirely new set of maddening inconveniences to deal with that most able-bodied passengers will never be fortunate enough to encounter.
Having flown with the changing challenges of ALS, I can tell you it’s no picnic. However, don’t be afraid to travel with a wheelchair. It doesn’t have to suck.
This is one of those few times when I become religious. I have a prayer I say each time I travel. Thank the good Lord of Cannabis edibles and well-designed drops, for providing non-pharmacological ways to endure travel.
Most popular methods of transportation are designed for the average able-bodied person without any impairment. However, as we watch the global population grow older, the things we use every day must be reimagined and redesigned to allow us to continue to use these things as we always have.
The brand OXO is a great example of an adaptation of everyday items reimagined to enable greater independence for people with arthritis and other disabilities.
What has remained very much unchanged is transportation in general. Cars are no easier to get in or out of. Train travel is relaxing but getting to, on, or off the train leaves much to be desired. And the last, and most inhumane mode of transportation, the airplane, just sucks.
Assuming you got to the airport without any trouble, there are many hurdles to overcome before you get anywhere near the plane. Passengers needing to travel with a wheelchair should not be new to the TSA.
However, they will most likely want to fondle everything you’ve brought with you, feeding supplies, bathroom navigation, before allowing you to get anywhere near the gate.
Once you arrive at the gate, now is the time to rest, get a drink, have a gummy, and take a breather before the real fun begins. Sure, boarding the plane first always seems like a sexy advantage. Until you realize the aisle chair you are about to get strapped in is akin to a medieval torture device.
Let’s Play a Game
How many straps is this man wearing? Six. This man has six seat belt type straps buckled around him.
For the safety of whom, this has never been clearly explained to me or anyone I have traveled with.
One across the ankles, another across the lap, one at the waist, the chest, and just in case that isn’t sufficient, two more crisscross the torso.
All that is needed to complete the picture is the face mask used to contain Hannibal Lecter.
If this is the result of brilliant aerospace engineering to ensure no harm could possibly come to the passenger, then why hasn’t this level of safety been introduced to the automotive industry?
If one seat belt is good, why wouldn’t five more be better? After all, I am moving in a car at a much higher rate of speed than I am in the aisle chair. Even the normal airline seat only has the single flimsy belt that is only useful for creating a false sense of security while the captain nods off sending 167 passengers careening into the side of a mountain.
It Doesn’t End There
Legs… Uh… Fingers crossed you don’t need the bathroom during the flight. How do you get from your seat, that took four people to get you into, to what will surely be an inexcusably small lavatory somewhere on the opposite end of the plane? Fortunately, I figured out a solution for that.
Although eating may not be a concern for many of you, for the ALS crowd, it’s a major undertaking. The formula, feeding tubes, access to clean water, medicines needing to be crushed and strained, and more.
Stay tuned for the next part of this post where I address some creative solutions to these problems when you travel with a wheelchair.
What travel hacks have you come up with to make travel easier? Let me know in the comments below.