When I was honored with the opportunity of joining the first Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy Adult Advisory Council, my first thought was how am I going to make it down to DC?
When you haven’t walked in more than a decade, travel becomes the most inaccessible thing in the world. Traveling by car, bus, subway, or train is a piece of cake because we can do it from the comfort and safety of our wheelchairs. Planes however involve literally getting out of your wheelchair and hoping other people don’t break it enough getting it on and off the plane. If you’re lucky enough, your wheelchair, which essentially are your legs, is actually at the arrival airport without too much damage and you’ve been treated like a human being the entire flight.
We thought about taking the Acela by Amtrak down from Boston, but it is 8 hours to DC instead of just 1 by plane. I have been helping lead a Non Profit Organization All Wheels Up dedicated to getting airplanes wheelchair accessible for the last year so flying turned out to be a great chance to get research done in person too.
For the last year I have been researching everything about flying with a wheelchair and it was time to finally try it myself. I knew to take off the headrest, show the baggage handlers how to unlock my wheelchair, take my backpack off at the TSA security to get it scanned, preboard before everybody else, how catheters were allowed to be worn for going to the bathroom, carry on all suitcases, how the wheelchair to get on the plane worked, ask for the sliding board, and take a picture of my wheelchair before the baggage handlers brought it into the plane in case anything breaks.
With the help of my Mom, Sister, PCA, and all the amazing people at Jet Blue and Logan International Airport and Reagan National Airport, our flight to fight Muscular Dystrophy went great.
It was beautiful getting the opportunity to fly just like everybody else for the first time with my wheelchair. I wish everyone with Muscular Dystrophy and who uses Wheelchairs gets to experience Air Travel too. We are definitely planning on flying again soon!
I ended up doing a ton of research for how they load wheelchairs on to the plane and what can be improved in the entire process and also learned that I was allowed to put my wheelchair cushion on the airplane seat.
It was not a perfect experience because I could not hold myself up without help, even with my wheelchair cushion it really hurt my butt, and I had to be lifted, but it can be improved and eventually made so we can fly from the comfort of our wheelchairs just like every other form of travel.
I’ll be posting more pictures of my trip, including a video of the baggage handlers loading my wheelchair on the plane, and more about traveling with a wheelchair on the All Wheels Up website soon. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing to help get Airplanes Wheelchair Accessible please follow us on Facebook and Twitter
Taking the risk of flying with my wheelchair was incredibly worth it to finally be involved with Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. Meeting everybody in the Adult Advisory Council was really cool and all the wonderful people at PPMD embraced our experiences, perspectives, and ideas with open arms.
We spent the ENTIRE time learning about all the initiatives PPMD is involved with, listening to brilliant speakers in the Muscular Dystrophy and Disability community, making plans for what we wanted to accomplish in the Adult Advisory Council, and understanding how to be the best advocates we can be.
It was an absolute honor to represent all the other brave boys and men fighting Muscular Dystrophy at the Advocacy Conference and Capitol Hill! We made huge plans in the fight against Muscular Dystrophy and to help us all be independent and contributing members of society. We can’t wait to see what we accomplish as the first Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy Adult Advisory Council!