Meg Casey
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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

Handicap traveling

Meg Casey
February 23, 1983

Dear Meg

What are some of the problems you encounter while traveling?

Are you asking this of me personally or do you use for your we "you" to mean "ya’ll disabled people of the world?" Hands down it is all a form of inaccessibility.

To answer for myself, their frustrations that I would, do and have endured while globe trotting are pretty much the same ones that are encountered time and time again in my own backyard. No matter where I go I will constantly find something’s too big, too high or too heavy. (and or any combination of the three!)

Alas the flight of a little person only out to raise little bit o’ hell while on this planet of giants. Luckily for me I've always taken comfort in the motto "If at first you don't succeed, storm the Bastille!"

More serious note, due to a couple of hard unchangeable fax resulting from the condition which I have, I will never be a completely independent way for not only do I need the account free to remove temporary obstacles from a path, I even have to hassle with someone else to put the damn socks on my feet everyday because partially stiffened leg joints have always denied me the simple pleasure of shaking hands with my toes.

Therefore the only solo journeying I do is strictly "in transit." I am always put on board, have arranged this to be assisted when need to be en route, and have to arrange to be by met by someone at the gate or platform on arrival.

I have a dear friend with whom I would love like to travel but still couldn’t without a third party because he is also disabled. His disability confines him to a wheelchair for the most part but a more well seasoned person would be hard-to-find. That chair of his has seen more foreign lands then I have!

This friend has never, in all his years of "going," experienced an unpleasant episode the likes of a horror story he has give me permission to share with you.

Recently he had gone down to Florida for a sneak preview of the new Epcot center at Disney World. He planned a trip for some time look forward to it with great excitement.

He flew. The airline he used will remain nameless for the time being.

Firstly it is standard procedure for an airline to request that a disabled individual transfer out of his or her wheelchair into a courtesy chair in order to enable them to stow his or her chair safely in the baggage compartment of the plane.

These courtesy wheelchairs usually have some gizmo extending high enough into the air so they can't be taken off the plane. Sometimes it is the luggage rack as was in this case.

A special chair called a "skinny" is normally kept and used on a plane for assisting disabled or ill people to from their seat on board. The wheels of these skinny chairs are underneath the seat rather than on the side so as to maneuver the narrow aisles easily with them.

I said "normally kept on board" but such was not the case here even though my friend had made special reservations well in advance alerting them to the facts of his disability.

Despite his attempts at good planning, no means (or persons) were available for assisting him on board the craft and this very “proud" young man was forced to half drag, half crawl his way to his seat which was halfway towards the back of the plane, if he wanted to continue the trip. Fortunately the idiots did adhere to the standard practice whereby the disabled passengers are the first to board the plane and lasted to disembark so that he was spared the further indignity of a planeload of gawking witnesses instead of a playful of an audience of the crew and bunch of empty seats. Can you imagine yourself going through that fiasco? Thank God for some small favors though, because what the good Lord may have held back on my friend, he didn't skip when he gave them at an active mouth. You can be sure that they had anything he wanted when that aircraft touched down in the land of sunshine!

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up what is probably the single most common difficulty which the disabled traveler comes up against. There are many different interpretations of just what the term "accessible" means when applied to the building codes and just how well the reconstruction must be done before the owner of an establishment has the right to advertise as being such.

It is so very disheartening to drag your weary bones into your hotel room only to find that you can’t have that long hot soak in the tub because the bathroom can’t accommodate your wheelchair after all. In this case "accessible" meant that cement ramp outside with the “Suicide Six Inch” pitch to it!

More has to be done to tighten up the laxity found all over the country where builders are allowed to slide by strictly due to lack of serious and constant code enforcement by the officials. (Fining the official would certainly change the tide.)

On a more positive note many new dreams are being realized for us.

Greyhound now offers a deal whereby the companion of a disabled traveler needing assistance travels free of charge Ensuring the disabled the ability of going places without doubling expenses!

Rental car companies are able to offer the service of providing a suitably adapted car to be waiting for the disabled traveler on arrival if given advanced notice and the specific modifications information needed.

Many new travel packets. tours and guidebooks all geared toward accessible enjoyment are available everyday. Any reputable travel agent would be more than happy to help you find the way to do it all. (And I highly recommend you do it all!)

Bon Voyage.

This article was transcribed using one of the accesabilty features built into Apple computers.

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photographs and other content courtesy of the Casey family unless noted
blog posts and art by Meg Casey
originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper
Memorable Milford regrets that a political dispute has made it necessary to complete this project without the cooperation of a claimant to the original columns
The original author disdained those only seeking to profit from tragedies.
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