Cure Advocate Kristina Rhoades is a seasoned traveler, as her career in marketing and sales takes her cross-country throughout the year. You may recognize her from Abilities Expo events where she serves as the family Meet Up Zone Ambassador. Kristina’s first article on accessible air travel was so popular that we invited her to share tips on ground travel for Cure Nation readers as well.
Ahh, sweet summertime. It’s the season for road trips, summer vacations and a little extra adventure. It’s a time for making memories and new friends that we’ll treasure for a lifetime. If you’re like me, though, and use a wheelchair, than you’ll want to keep in mind some transportation tips to help your trip go as smoothly as possible.
In an earlier blog, I covered airline travel for wheelchair users (you can read that here) – but that only covered one segment of the trip. Getting to and from the airport and around the city you traveled to must also be considered. Plus, some people prefer to avoid airline travel all together and would much rather stay on the ground.
Whether you plan to travel for fun or for work, the following tips should help you on your way.
Plan Ahead to Choose the Best Mode of Transportation
Let’s say you’re planning to land at an airport in a city that you’ve never been to. Let’s also assume that you don’t have a ride from someone you know. Somehow, you’ll have to get to where your staying, the meeting your attending or the people your visiting. You’ll have several options available to you, so let’s walk through what those are and the pros and cons of each.
Most airports, except for some of the really small ones, have taxis available at the airport. Look for signs after you grab your luggage at baggage claim or ask an airport employee where to find the taxi stand. When you arrive at the taxi stand, have your destination ready, as well as your choice of vehicle.
Ahead of time, you’ll want to think about what kind of vehicle you prefer.
I use a manual wheelchair and can pretty easily transfer into the back of a car. My chair is light enough that drivers can pop the wheels off and it will fit right into most trunks. The whole concept is usually pretty foreign and a little intimidating to most drivers, so you’ll have to do some educatin’.
You’ll most likely need to explain how to take the wheels off and where to pick up your wheelchair so pieces don’t pull off.
I’ll also warn you, if you’re new to taxis, that some drivers simply won’t want to accommodate you if they see the wheelchair. They have some silly preconceived ideas about us that scare them and they think it will take too much time and they’ll lose money.
On all accounts, don’t be afraid to be assertive. Let people know what you’re capable of and how to handle your equipment. This is their job and you have a right to the service.
Keep in mind that if you can also be kind and patient, they’ll be more likely to pick up the next wheelchair passenger they see.
If you can’t, or don’t want to, transfer, you’ll need to request an accessible taxi. Here’s the dilemma with this.
There is absolutely no consistency from city to city as to the availability of wheelchair accessible taxis.
Cities like Chicago have hundreds of accessible taxis ready and waiting and other major cities have TWO.
In New York, for example, I can usually find a wheelchair accessible taxi right at the taxi stand (although, usually it’s rear entry and not my style), or within a few minutes of waiting. Other cities don’t have them on hand, but can request them – and in this case, you can expect to wait.
If a taxi is your choice for ground transportation and you require an accessible vehicle, then you may want to play it safe and call ahead. Many cities have designated departments for accessible taxis that allow you to call and reserve one ahead of time.
Most want a 24-hour notice for these types of reservations and a lot of them have a reputation for being late. If you have an important appointment, you should give yourself plenty of extra time for delays.
Video: Kristina loves the cure twist while she’s on the go
To request free samples of the Cure Twist® Ready-to-Use Catheter or any Cure Medical catheter, contact your local distributor of quality healthcare products, or click here.
Another option for transportation is to choose one of the very popular rideshare companies, like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar. It’s very similar to a taxi, but with more of a contemporary approach. The entire reservation and transaction takes place inside the app. As far as accessibility, it’s also similar to a taxi, but in some cases there are not as many accessible vehicles available.
But, they are making progress for us. Uber has recently launched a pilot program where they’re putting wheelchair accessible vehicles on the ground in a number of cities and allowing customers to select one of those vehicles specifically.
Check out more about that program and the way Uber plans to address accessibility here. Lyft also offers Access Mode for users who need accessible vehicles, but it’s also only enabled in certain markets.
If you don’t require an accessible vehicle, all you need to do is download one of the apps, create an account and when you arrive at your destination, request a ride and select the type of vehicle you want. Some people like the SUV’s for the extra space and because you don’t have to break down the wheelchair, but other’s don’t like to transfer up so high and would prefer a four-door car that’s nice and low to the ground.
One of the great things about using a rideshare company is that you don’t have to worry about handling cash for payment.
No handing your bank card to your driver or fumbling with cash. It’s all taken care of through the app. Plus, there’s not a lot of waiting around.
Train, Subway and Bus
If you’re not down with a taxi or rideshare, you can always take another form of public transportation. The best thing about buses and trains are that just about all of them are accessible, thanks to our friends at Untied Spinal Association and many other dedicated advocates. Most of the time you can stay right in your chair, too. And these options are usually cheaper than a taxi.
Keep in mind, though, that these modes of transportation have designated stops. You won’t be dropped off right in front of your destination, but if you’re lucky, you can find a stop that is close enough to roll. Otherwise, you’ll be hailing a taxi anyway.
If you opt for the subway, be sure to check ahead about the accessibility for your particular stop. I’ve heard horror stories of friends in power chairs getting trapped below ground in the subway because there was no elevator to get out. That may just ruin your trip.
A final option for ground transportation when you arrive at your destination is renting a vehicle. You can approach this several different ways. You can use one of the well-known companies – many of which are available right at the airport (or a short shuttle ride away). You may want to make your reservation ahead of time to make sure the type of vehicle you want is available.
Some locations will even install a set of hand controls at your request. If not, you’ll need to bring a portable travel set along.
Don’t have a pair of portable hand controls? Colours Wheelchair makes a cool set – check them out here.
Again, if an accessible vehicle is what you require, you may run into some challenges. Many of the big guys don’t offer accessible vehicles, although the community has begged them to incorporate accessibility. Your next best option will probably be reaching out to the closest local mobility store, where they sell accessible vehicles. A lot of mobility dealers offer rental vehicles out of their own fleet and they actually understand the disability community.
There is so much to see – so get out there and experience it! Just remember to speak up for yourself, ask for help, plan ahead and have patience – and you should be just fine!
Stay up to date with articles like this and all sorts of other great info by joining the Cure Nation. Happy summer and safe traveling!
Play Along: Share Your Photos in the Get Out, Enjoy Life Summer Tour 2017
Do you have an awesome vacation photo to share like Kristina’s above? We officially “hit the road” during the month of August for our seventh consecutive year in search of accessible destinations, new hot-spots to explore and adventures to uncover, and as always, you’re invited to play along.
The GET OUT, ENJOY LIFE Program is brought to you by SPORTS ‘N SPOKES Magazine, the Spina Bifida Association and Cure Medical!Over the years we’ve received hundreds of photos from around the world of your adventures of accessible hiking, extreme chair skating (WCMX) and bungee jumping – to name just a few.
PHOTO CONTEST DETAILS:
The Get Out, Enjoy Life – Summer Tour 2017 photo contest kicks off August 1 and runs the entire month. We want to see the places you visit and the sports and recreational activities you enjoy. At the end of the contest – August 31 – three grand-prize winners will be selected from those who share pictures of getting out and enjoying life this summer.
So, what do you win? Three winners total will receive the Get Out, Enjoy Life Prize Pack that includes an the Get Out, Enjoy Life – Summer Tour 2017 T-shirt, a few carabineers and a copy of the latest issue of S`NS. We may even toss is a few prior issues of S`NS.
If you’ve ever wondered what we look for in a cover, the SPORTS `N SPOKES art director talks about what she looks for when choosing a cover photo nd what it takes to Land the Cover.