Friday, August 1, 2014

Advice: First Overnight Trip Using a Wheelchair

Hey!  I need some advice. Next weekend I'm going out of state to visit family. I'm a little nervous because it'll be my first overnight trip using a wheelchair. My mom's driving, and she booked an accessible hotel room. Some of my relatives' houses have one or two steps; I've practiced steps with a walker in PT but I don't know how steep these ones are. My family really wants me to feel welcome there, it's just a lot of new things at once! Any suggestions for calming my jitters?

Ooh!  You gave me a doozy!

First, the accessible hotel room.  I would say check that out thoroughly before you get there. While some hotels are amazing and fabulous and mean it when they say accessible, some are not as accessible as we need them to be. 

You can do this a couple of ways (I'd suggest both, in the interest of thoroughness.) If at all possible, go to the website for the hotel you're booked in, and pull up pictures of the accessible rooms.  This will help you start to visualize your space and what you might need to ask about. Then?  Call the hotel ahead of time yourself and ask to speak to someone specifically about the accessible rooms.  Tell them which room you've booked.  Ask about elevators, doorway widths, grab bars in the bathroom, the height of the beds, the toilet, the sink, anything at all that's niggling at you.  Don't be afraid to be direct.  The hotel employees won't necessarily know to say they have what you need if they don't know what you need. 

And the stairs...I don't have a ton of advice for you there other than don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help, if you need it.  It's impossible to plan for everything.  The stairs might be totally fine for you to navigate.  But if they're not, ask a steady, sturdy relative to give you a hand.  They want you to feel welcome, and part of that, I'm sure, is feeling welcome asking for help.  (You could also ask relatives to take pictures of their steps and text them to you, again for visualizing purposes.  But if you think this might psych you out?  Just think positively and remember there is no shame in asking for help.)

Other tips?

1) Bring comfortable clothes.  Traveling can be stressful, extra stressful when disabled.  Your trip will go so much better if you're not wearing that one pair of jeans that's hard to get in and out of, or that dress that fastens in back.  Bring stuff you can move in, not stuff that restricts you.

2) Bring the shoes that work best for you.  The sturdiest.  The ones with the best tread.  Whatever you need to ensure your safety the most.  (And if you want, bring the sandals for when you're sitting down.)

3) Bring every mobility aid you think you might need.  I have both a manual wheelchair and Canadian crutches.  Especially when going somewhere unfamiliar, I take both, because you never know about doorways, distances, stairs, uneven ground, etc.  Take as many options for yourself as possible.

4) If you have one, don't forget your parking sticker!  (Especially if you're not driving, this can be an easy one to me...I've done it.)

5) Sit and relax as much as you can.  Sometimes at family gatherings, there are a lot of people standing and talking.  Don't feel weird about asking for a chair.

That's about all I have, but if I think of anything else, I'll be sure to come back and add it!  Hope your trip goes well!

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