The Locked-In Traveler
(Kati’s Wheelchair Traveling Journals)
To travel in a wheelchair is not impossible or even that difficult (as some may think.) Well, that is not entirely true. For us that live in the modern industrial part of the world, it is. For people living in less developed countries, it is difficult. Not just financially. The infrastructure is not designed with accessibility in mind.
In developed countries nowadays, it is quite easy to get around. Disabled people even have the convenience to choose the way of transportation they want to take. Next to taxis that are wheelchair accessible also, busses and trains have ramps and designated places for the less abled.
In the less developed countries, services for wheelchair users are scarce unto non-existing.
There are places (countries, cities) where many cabs are wheelchair friendly — others where there are specialized wheelchair taxis. Moreover, there are places where you are restricted to the use of a regular taxi.
The same counts for busses and trains. In some places, you have more modern busses and trains where ramps come out by simply pushing a button. So simple and easy.
In some places, they have special assistance to which bring ramps and lift you in and out. That feels a bit more like a drag. Especially in trains where; I cannot help to stress a little about: “will the staff remember to come to lift me in and out at the right station.” Then you remember those; that feel lucky if they can travel in the cargo section, or to have someone that can carry them aboard.
When traveling abroad in a wheelchair, one should always be ready for all the possible scenarios with a positive attitude. One way to do is by; “when searching for trips not to think convenient or inconvenient, but as; luxury or adventurous.”
A couple of years ago, we traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to do a fashion show. We knew from the beginning that it was probably going to be adventurous. We were not surprised on arrival that there were no wheelchair-accessible taxis. Henning knew immediately that he would have to lift me in and out the cab for the rest of the trip.
Most of the main streets have sidewalks that were doable. Then again, others were not. In addition, the back roads do not have paths at all. Therefore, when walking around, we did just like the locals; when possible, we used the sidewalk. When not, we walk on the streets.
There was sightseeing trip planned for the day after the show. The taxis came to pick us up, and they were all mini-busses, not regular cars. Vans are too high for me to be lifted on, and so were these busses.
Henning has just as an adventurous spirit as I do and said; “no way we are staying behind, we are doing this.”
He lifted me to the bus floor, then stepped inside and lifted me to the seat. Then after he pulled me over to the middle of the bench and sat to one side of me, and my assistant; Jovy sat to the other side so I would not fall over.
Traveling in a wheelchair can be an adventure on itself. It has its tricks and gimmicks, but it’s nothing you cannot learn and overcome. It is definitely worth it, for it reminds you that you are alive.
(Kati & Henning van der Hoeven)