Traveling with someone who can sit only supported in a wheelchair presents certain challenges others don’t think of. When my daughter was younger and we encountered physical barriers we always managed to get around them by lifting her, wheelchair and all up stairs and over curbs. As she has grown and we have aged the physical barriers are a bit more challenging. Sometimes others step up and help, but mostly now we look for places that are wheelchair accessible. We enjoy vacationing in small resort towns staying in hotels situated within a short walk of restaurants, shopping, and other low key attractions so that we get a break from the task of loading and unloading her wheelchair in our van. Most of the buildings are old and some have been retrofitted with ramps and elevators which make for some interesting entrances. There’s one restaurant we liked that had a flight of stairs to get to the dining area and bar which had an open elevator right inside the entrance next to a flight of stairs into the bar. Since my daughter is unable to operate the lift herself someone must ride up with her, which means that for unwary patrons sitting at the table nearest the lift they are suddenly confronted with two heads rising from the floor. It’s amusing, but awkward, forcing everyone at the table to move to allow for the elevator door to swing open and her and companion (usually her sister) to exit. It would be fun if they added a fanfare and sparklers emanating from the lift as it rises to give some flair to the entrance of the wheelchair user. Another restaurant has built a ramp around the side of the building which opens into the bar area located on the second floor. Here again people must move out of the way so we can gain entrance. We’re fortunate in that we’ve never encountered anyone annoyed by moving, most are happy to make room for our passage. My funniest experience with my daughter and elevators came on a cruise ship. When the other girls in her scout troop were graduating high school they celebrated by taking a 4 day cruise. I was initially not planning to take Hillary because I couldn’t imagine how I could care for her alone without all the equipment I use at home and when we take a road trip. After thinking about it and speaking with her troop leader it was decided that along with me, Hillary’s school aide and my older daughter would accompany the girls as chaperones and help with her care. The accessible room we had was for 2 people so Hillary and I were on a different deck from the others in our group. There were banks of elevators, which were in nearly constant use. Meeting up with everyone became challenging when it was just my daughter and me. I’d push the button for an elevator on one wall, and one on the other wall at the other end of the row opened. By the time I got there with her one of two things happened: the car was full, or it took us too long to get there and the doors shut and it moved on as we approached. I found it quite frustrating at the time, but when I think about it I laugh because it was such a ridiculous thing to be pushing buttons and hurrying from one side and end of the rows to the other with Hillary and her chair before finally catching one of the cars.
Traveling with a wheelchair user presents some challenges, but somehow we always manage to make it work.