Welcome to the first blog post in a new series called Trip Reports, filed under the Reader Mailbag.
Every so often, I dip into the mailbag to answer questions about accessible travel from readers just like you. Occasionally, readers like to share a story and photos from their own accessible journey — those stories will now be part of the Trip Reports series. If you have a question you’d like answered or would like to share details from a recent trip, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
The following trip report was submitted by Mary Khan. She wrote:
My name is Mary, I’m 55 years old, married 32 years, have 3 adult children, have been living with MS for 34 years and use a wheelchair.
Let me start by saying for ME, the best way to travel is by car. We have an accessible van. I cannot even think of getting on an airplane until they allow me to come on the plane in my own motorized wheelchair. I don’t want to be humiliated, be left unable to use the bathroom, or transfer from chair to chair.
My husband and I went to Washington DC in mid August. In hindsight, maybe that was not the best time of year to go because it was 100° Fahrenheit and humid.
Now to get to the good part: To make the vacation more enjoyable for both of us, my husband arranged for a healthcare attendant to come to the hotel for four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. This way, he wouldn’t be exhausted from helping me get ready and we were able to enjoy the day ahead of us.
In Washington DC, there is a city bus called the Connector. The cost of riding the bus is only one dollar, and it stops at every landmark, museums, etc. It was extremely helpful and if we missed the bus, no problem, another one came every 15 minutes.
Washington DC is very accessible. There are sidewalk cutouts, ramps and elevators everywhere (as there should be)… There were a couple of places under construction, but aside from that the people there were very accommodating and helpful to both my husband and myself.
I have not been on an airplane since the 1990s and look forward to the day I can go to the Grand Canyon. Do you know when they’re going to have the wheelchair restraints in the airplane, not under the airplane?
Editor’s note: I’m thrilled to hear that Mary and her husband had a fun trip to Washington, D.C. The capital city is one of the most accessible destinations in the United States, with a fantastic public transportation system and a slew of national monuments and museums that are FREE to visit!
Although it’s not possible to bring a wheelchair into the aircraft cabin yet, one day it will be. USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently said the following:
“No other form of transportation — trains, buses, boats — forces you to give up your mobility device when you board. The same ought to be true of airlines. So, in the months and years ahead, we plan to record a new rule that will allow passengers to stay in their personal wheelchairs when they fly. We know this won’t happen overnight, but it is a goal that we have to work to fulfill.”
WheelchairTravel.org will continue to follow developments in the airline industry, as it’s my belief that the right of equal access to air travel for disabled passengers must include equal access to the airplane cabin. If you haven’t already, check out the article on a wheelchair space designed for airplanes and watch my interview with Chris Wood, the visionary behind that innovative concept.
Interested in taking a wheelchair accessible trip to the nation’s capital? Start with the Washington, D.C. Accessible Travel Guide, a free resource filled with information on the wheelchair accessibility of D.C. attractions, hotels, public transportation, taxis and more!