With all my second-hand experience, I feel like I could write a book on this topic. Let’s start with some positives!
The first time Cara and I went on a trip together I quickly realized there are a lot of advantages to travelling with someone with a SCI. Priority at the airport! Skipping all those check-in/security/custom lines really is the best. As soon as staff spots someone in a wheelchair they seem to come out of nowhere and whisk you down all these secret hallways and elevators and then BOOM! You’ve magically arrived at your gate. Being the first ones on the plane is nice too. You really get to bond with the staff and it gives you a chance to get settled in before everyone else gets on.
Now for some of the tough stuff. I can’t stress this enough. Be prepared! Just because hotels/restaurants/attractions tell you that they’re wheelchair accessible, doesn’t mean that they actually are. They just want your business and THEY WILL LIE. Most hotels think that if a wheelchair can fit in the room and they have grab bars installed in the bathroom, then they pass the test. They don’t think about things like bed height, a lower mirror, a reachable spot for your shampoo/conditioner. Call ahead and be very specific with what your needs are. I ended up having to lift Cara into our bed every night when we were honeymooning in Jamaica. Not a huge deal for me, but not everyone is able to do that. What if she was by herself? I mentioned the bed height to the staff the next morning and do you know what they said?
“Oh, don’t worry. We’ll bring her a foot stool.”
🙄 Nope, sorry. Not going to work.
But by far, my biggest annoyance when travelling with Cara is that people will always assume that I’m her care aide or sister. They just can’t seem to fathom that inter-able couples exist. I know it isn’t as common to see a lesbian couple together compared to a heterosexual one, yet even when they see us cuddle or kiss we constantly get asked “are you sisters?”
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I sure don’t know of any sisters that make out! 😜
To recap, here are a few key pointers when travelling with someone with an SCI.
- Call your airline ahead of time to let them know you require extra assistance. We didn’t do this once and almost couldn’t board the flight!
- Plan ahead and don’t assume anything.
- Be prepared for all situations (pack accordingly!)
Always try to stay positive and don’t let minor inconveniences bring you down. Remember to be kind. Most places/people just don’t understand everything that comes along with a SCI. Accommodating you is a learning experience for them too!