Traveling With One Arm Tied Behind Your Back


Disability TravelIf you travel with a disability, handicap, physical limitation, mobility limitation, or developmental disability, have special needs, or use an electric wheelchair or handicap scooter, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can to make disabled travel easier.

Or if you’re a mature traveler or senior who is a slow walker or just wants a slower pace, becoming more informed about disabled travel services and disability travel resources, will lessen the anxiety that often accompanies disabled travelers.
The following travel tips, resources and information for the disabled will help make trips, tours, holidays and vacations a lot easier for you, or for a child with a disability, whether short-term or long-term.

1. Plan your trip well in advance! Do you need to order extra supplements, medications or renew prescriptions, fix eyeglasses or change prescriptions, get a physical, have dental work done, have your wheelchair fixed or tuned up, etc.?

2. If possible, always book your travel through an agency that specializes in helping people with disabilities. This is important because specialized travel agents and tour operators for the disabled are experienced and can save you some awful headaches.

They offer a lot of good tips and a wide range of services for the handicapped traveler. Among other things, they can arrange for a: wheelchair at the airport, wheelchair accessible hotel room, wheelchair rental, lift-equipped accessible van, full van, minivan, RV, handicap scooter, or any other handicap vehicle.

Travel agents for the disabled can help arrange accessible transportation, help plan the best accessible cruise, give cruise line and cruising tips, arrange travel insurance and take care of special needs.

Agents can check with hotels for: inner and outer door widths to accommodate your wheelchair, ADA-approved handicap bath tubs, grab bars, or for roll-in showers. Just tell them your needs.

Travel agents can help you find cheap airfare, cheap tickets, cheap flights, cheap travel auto insurance, cheap hotels, cheap car rentals, cheap cruises, cheap vacations and cheap travel of all kinds.

3. Besides taking along your travel agent’s phone number, you’ll also want to take with you the phone numbers for the travel agencies that specialize in disabled travel at your destination, in the event you can’t reach your own agent.

These travel agents may know how to solve problems that come up regarding your hotel, car or van rentals, etc., even if you didn’t order your tickets through them.

4. When traveling to another city, check out the local health and medical associations before you go. For example, get the phone numbers for the local MS chapter if you have MS. These organizations can be great resources.

They usually know what museums, restaurants, theaters & other local facilities are wheelchair accessible and where you can get oxygen, emergency supplies or medical assistance. They may be able to help you with any problems that arise.

5. If you plan to rent a handicap scooter, wheelchair, electric wheelchair, handicap van, full van, mini-van, RV or other vehicle in another city, don’t wait until you get there. Make all the arrangements before you leave on your trip.

Make sure you ask any specifics like, are there tie-downs, ramps, or hoists, etc. Check on what van, RV, car or auto insurance you’ll need before you go.

6. Don’t leave anything to chance. If you can, double-check all the arrangements your travel agent makes. Call the airlines, hotels, scooter, wheelchair, car, RV or van rental companies, medical equipment rental companies, etc., and verify the specifics, especially if you’re traveling in a wheelchair or have any other special needs like oxygen.

This is important if you haven’t used the agent before.

7. If you need oxygen or any other special medical equipment, call airlines and suppliers well in advance of your trip. Don’t wait until the last minute. Start calling them as soon as you know you’re going to be traveling or taking a trip.

Then double-check with your travel agent and the airline at least three to four days before your flight.

8. Arrive early at the airport. It’s better to wait around there than miss your plane. This will eliminate some of the pre-trip anxiety you might feel and make for more leisurely travel. This seems like common knowledge but many people still arrive at the gate just in the nick of time.

With all that’s going on in the world today there are many reasons why you want to allow for more time at the airport.

9. In your airplane carry-on bag keep copies of the prescriptions for your medications and eyeglasses, extra eyeglasses, sunglasses, all your medications and supplements, and a list of your doctor, dentist and other health professionals with their addresses, and phone numbers.

Include your doctor’s fax number for prescriptions in case you lose your medications. Keep duplicate copies of these in your luggage and at home by the telephone. Know where your medical records are kept.

10. When you travel, and for any other time too, if you take medications, learn their names and exactly what they’re for if you don’t know. People come into the emergency room all the time and don’t know what medications they’re taking. You might be surprised to find out that most people say ‘a little yellow pill’ or ‘a white capsule’, etc.

Emergency workers need to know what you’re taking so they don’t give you medication that would interact adversely with it, overdose you or somehow interfere with their treatment and your recovery.

11. If you’re traveling by air, tell the flight attendants when you board, of any medical problem you might encounter on your flight. Note the location of the closest restroom before getting seated. Tell the flight attendant if you think you’ll need assistance getting to it during the flight.

You may need or want an aisle seat for easy access to the restrooms. Discuss seating with your travel agent.

12. If you need someone to travel with you, ask your travel agent for ideas or suggestions. Call the local chapters of medical associations and ask if they can recommend a travel assistant or travel companion to help or accompany you.

There are national companies who offer traveling nurses, traveling companions or travel assistants to accompany disabled travelers or people with serious medical issues.

13. Make sure to take with you: any medical cards, Medicare cards, discount cards, car or auto rental discount cards, auto insurance policy numbers and agent’s phone number, passport, airline tickets, etickets, American Express Travelers Cheques, debit cards, credit cards, and drivers license. Photocopy everything.

Keep photocopies in your luggage and at home by the telephone or someplace where someone has access to it in case you need it.

14. Read everything you can about traveling with a disability. Read disabled travel books, access guides, accessible guidebooks, disability travel articles and travel publications for the disabled traveler. Read the personal travel experiences of wheelchair users and others who have traveled with disabilities. Be informed.

These travel tips, information, resources, and services for the disabled should help you, or anyone with a disability, handicap, physical limitation, or who uses a wheelchair, have an easier, more pleasant, anxiety-free, trouble-free trip, tour, holiday or vacation.

Helen Hecker R.N. is the author of Travel for the Disabled and the ‘Directory of Travel Agencies for the Disabled’ and other books for travelers with disabilities. Get FREE weekly ‘Travel Tips for the Disabled’at Also get FREE ‘Disability News You Can Use’

Tips For the Newly Disabled

newly disabled

I was paralyzed from the waist down for several years in my thirties. The ten tips below came from my own hard, slow work to regain my mobility, and the common experiences of many disabled clients in similar situations. They will help you understand what might be happening in your mind, body and social life, moving you along the road to living normally with your disability as soon as possible.

When a person is newly disabled by accident, illness or genetics, a host of physical, emotional and social changes present themselves. Most of these changes are things no one can truly prepare for. There are suddenly no usual routines, no guidelines in how to proceed with success.

Newly disabled people can feel frightened, abandoned and without direction as pain and loss often dominate their recovery. These feelings can derail further growth and progress into a new, functional and successful life.

It is my hope that the following tips will help you see your justifiable feelings, new experiences and the situations that can arise from sudden disability don’t have to be the end of the world. From unable to do all the things you could before your disability, see yourself Differently Able to do whatever you can Dream.

Social Security disability1. Expect an emotional reaction at your change in status from an “able” person to a disabled person.

Anger, frustration and resentment are common feelings when abilities are taken away. Use the energy of these emotions to transform the negative to positive and get active in powering forward your recovery effort. If you find you can’t get past the worst of the negative emotions, don’t hesitate to avail yourself of counseling, stress reduction methods or other help. Most hospitals and social service agencies provide groups to help the newly disabled.

2. Expect others to react differently to you than they did before the onset of your disability.

Most of the time people want to say and do the right thing, but our society does not prepare us adequately to handle the trauma of another’s disability. Reach out to your family, friends and acquaintances and encourage them to treat you as normally as they did before the onset of your disability.

3. Expect changes in your energy level and the way your body and mind work together.

Things that have been easy suddenly become difficult to impossible to accomplish. Give yourself lots of time to readjust to the new status quo and don’t do anything before you are ready. Despite how you might feel, this is no time to hermit up. Avail yourself of all the support you can get. What creative ways can you think of to accomplish the same goals differently and if possible, independently?

4. Expect governmental and organizational indifference and delays, sometimes from the very medical personnel, agencies and individuals meant to help you.

Aid your success in dealing with bureaucracy by keeping meticulous records of each contact with the agency or individual and reminding them of your needs and their agency’s commitment to you. Remember: the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Make a firm but polite pest of yourself and you will be served correctly, more of the time.

5. Expect co-workers to potentially feel uncomfortable with you.

Some newly disabled people lose their jobs. If you are still able to do the work for which you were hired, it is illegal for your employer to fire you. You have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – get to know what they are and use them. Take this opportunity to educate your workplace on the subject of disabilities, and yours in particular.

6. SSI (the governmental Social Security disability benefit) is not a free ride.

Most disabled people find SSI and pension checks little enough to pay their bills and rent. You will have to generate secondary sources of income and be creative about doing it. What skills or talents do you have that can be used in new ways? Coaching or career counseling can often help broaden the range of options available to you.

7. As a newly disabled person, you may find yourself inundated with offers for work-at-home schemes which may or may not deal with you honestly.

Some of these schemes can be lucrative for the dedicated worker, while others are directly dishonest and usurious. Protect yourself by checking out any potential employer for longevity in the workplace and worker satisfaction. Talk to others who have worked there six months or more about their experience with that particular employer.

8. Depending on the severity of your disability, you may need a care team.

This team should ideally consist of people who are favorably disposed towards you to begin with, such as family members and willing friends. If you must hire someone to care for you, check into their background as thoroughly as possible. Often the disabled are taken advantage of by unscrupulous care staff.

9. When you are given the gift of a disability, it does not diminish you as much as you might initially think.

When one door closes, many others are opened. A blind man’s sense of hearing sharpens to hear a pin drop 100 meters away; a quadriplegic develops extraordinary sensitivity in her facial skin that enables her to “feel” colors. See the opportunities that are available to you now that you could never see as a more able person. The world is waiting and the possibilities are limitless. What future will you choose?

10. Nothing is impossible.

Well, almost nothing. While you may never have a new pair of kidneys or be able to re-grow a limb you have lost, almost everything you dreamed of doing before your disability can still be possible. You just may have to modify quite a bit to achieve it. Don?t let anything stand in your way and don’t fall prey to blaming and self-pity. You are the only person who can get you from the depths of despair to all the success you want in life. Go for it!

Tips for the Newly Disabled

Ouch Podcast #41

This month it’s all about summer fun. Listen to our Clothes Clinic phone-in; your questions answered by blind fashion columnist Claire Jennings and WheelieChix-Chic fashion house founder Louisa Summerfield. Rob Crossan attempts to thrash our presenters at a disability quiz, our Vegetable Vegetable or Vegetable game returns plus music from unsigned band Bete Noire and oodles of chat. With Mat Fraser and Liz Carr.

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Ouch! Disability Podcast

Why You Should Wear Diabetic Socks

diabetic socks
diabetic socks
photo credit: Taylor.McBride™ via photopin cc

One of the benefits of wearing diabetic socks is that they help to repel moisture away from your feet. This is especially important as diabetic patients are more likely to suffer from foot ulcers and pain more easily than those without diabetes.

A good quality diabetic sock is made without seams to prevent rubbing or chaffing. They are normally wrinkle free and this reduces the chances of blisters forming. Diabetic socks tend to be looser fitting around the top. This helps keep your blood circulation even and allows your foot to maintain its temperature.

Diabetic socks look no different to a regular pair of socks. They are made from a cotton blend and have a stretch top. Many manufacturers have come up with socks labelled as ‘diabetic socks’ and they do cost a little more. They come in various styles and colors. Most doctors or podiatrists recommend wearing white socks if you currently have a foot injury. The reason for this is that you can easily tell on the white background if your wound is pussing or oozing. Getting medical attention immediately is important for anyone suffering from diabetes, as foot injuries can quickly become a serious issue.

Keep the following in mind when purchasing your diabetic socks:

Diabetes Miracle

  • Moisture control – the socks should be made of a high quality material, there are some new high tech fabrics on the market that help to keep moisture away better than cotton socks.
  • Reduce Pressure – socks that have no seams are less likely to cause pressure on any part of your foot.
  • Reduce Wrinkles – purchase socks which do not wrinkle, the wrinkles can cause irritations on your feet leading to blisters and foot ulcers. Avoid buying socks which are too thick and bulky.
  • Non Binding – your socks should not be too tight, as this could slow down or even stop your blood circulation. You want to choose socks which do not have elastic at the top, but will stay up by themselves.
  • Fitted socks – these are usually more comfortable for diabetes sufferers as they will not bunch up as much. Try experimenting with a few styles to see what feels comfortable on your feet.

Diabetic socks really are the best solution for keeping your feet in excellent condition. As well as being more comfortable and lightweight, these socks are perfect for those with extra sensitive feet. Diabetic socks are found in most department stores alongside regular socks and can also be purchased online for extra shopping convenience.

Teens and Physical Challenges

Disabled Prom

Disabled PromThe teenage years are difficult for both parent and child.  Raging hormones combined with physical challenges can be a nightmare for the unprepared parent. How can parents help their physically challenged teenager? First, remember that teenagers are in the thrall of hormones.

Between the ages of thirteen to eighteen, these children are growing into young adulthood.  Teenagers are finding out new things about their bodies and how to keep from feeling awkward in social situations.  When you factor in physical challenges, things can get explosive.

Parents often dread this time in their child’s life because it can be so chaotic.  But, parents are not without their resources to help a teenager in crisis.  The number one weapon in their arsenal is unconditional support.

Despite their physical appearance, teenagers are not adults. They still react to things in an immature way because they are not emotionally or mentally mature.  Everything that happens to them is a tragedy.  When a teenager possesses a physical challenge the emotions can be even more intense.  This is the time when they begin to realize that they are different and that it matters to their peers.

Because they are unsure of themselves, some teenagers criticize everything about everyone else. We all want to spare our children the experience of being the object of cruelty.  Many of these situations happen at school away from the eyes of parents.  A child with physical challenges needs to be prepared for the possibility of these situations, just like any other teenager.

Parents help by listening to their teenager.  Some of the things they say about themselves could hurt you.  Your teenager might express feelings of self-hate because of their physical challenges.  You may want to cry but resist the urge.  Hurting teenagers need strength and that will come from you. Telling them that they are beautiful to you only adds insult to injury.  They expect their parents to make statements like that.

Instead, teach them how to be themselves.  This won’t be easy either, but it prepares them for life beyond your walls. Let’s use an example.  A teenager with autism may notice that it is hard for them to play basketball because they are not coordinated.  They get teased in gym class.  Take the time to practice basketball with them at home, not because you want them to show off to their classmates, but to increase their confidence in themselves.

Teenagers with noticeable physical differences are sometimes ostracized by others.  Teach them to play to their strengths.  What does your teenager like to do?  Instead of trying to fit in on someone else’s terms, nurture the artist or musician within them so they can make a name for themselves using their talents. In addition to these things, encourage teenagers to join support groups and attend camps for the physically challenged.

Even if they remain mainstreamed in school, it is also good to get away and interact with teens just like them. Being a teenager isn’t easy and trying to survive as one with a physical challenge is doubly hard.  As a parent, show unified support and acceptance even in topsy-turvy times.  Your teenager will draw their strength from your faith in them.