Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Benefits of Traveling with Handicaps

I am back home and enjoying my usual peace and quiet. I have no Chuck Berry like escapade to report.  I no longer get sick on airplanes.  I was so absorbed in watching an Iranian movie on my iPad that I did not even notice that we had started to land until we were almost on the ground.

I do have good news to report to seniors on travel arrangements. As I have noted before, because we are now living so much longer with all of our high tech medical care, we can expect to be going in and out of hospitals from here till the end getting one thing fixed after another.  Some conditions we will have to endure without their being fixed too.  So many of us are traveling in handicapped conditions.

My recommendation to you is not to be shy about this.  If you have a handicap of any sort, even if temporary, state that clearly on all travel arrangements. I did on mine and I will now relate what I experienced by clearly stating I was handicapped at every juncture. The amazing thing is not one person at any juncture asked me for any proof.  Perhaps once you are 65 people just assume you are likely telling the truth if you say you are handicapped.

The airplane had double seats on one side of the aisle and single seats on the other side.  If you have a handicap you do not want to be climbing over people or have them climbing over you.  The minute I filled in handicapped for my airline reservation I was given the preferable single seat so no one could bother me.

When I arrived at the United part of the terminal, I said I was handicapped and needed assistance to get to the gate. Instantly a wheelchair was summoned for me.  I was not charged for the wheelchair or the attendant. This gave me priority status for security which meant I was wheeled to the front of the line in security where I got to go through ahead of everyone else. I did not even have to walk onto the plane.  I was wheeled right up to the entrance door of the plane. I was able to board before everyone else.

When we landed the wheelchair and attendant were waiting on the other side. The wheelchair attendants do count on being tipped.  I had four wheelchair attendants all told and tipped each of them $10. So my total cost was $40. They were very happy with the $10 so my guess is that they usually aren't tipped as much as they should be. The wheelchair attendant also picks up your bag at baggage and wheels you to your taxi or the person who is taking you home, including the parking lot for your car if needs be.  The airport and airlines clearly understand that they are legally obliged to do all of this. It is easy to tell that they do this all the time and everyone is very well trained in moving handicapped people around the airport.

When I got to my hotel I was given a handicapped room. This was because when I made my reservation I had filled out the handicapped info on the online form. The handicapped room comes at the same price but it is outfitted with grab bars throughout the bathroom, a chair for the shower and a complete closet with lower level access for ease of unpacking.

The restaurant for the rehearsal dinner had us in a special room up on the second floor.  I asked the hostess for an elevator to get up there, was directed to one in the back and rode up while everyone else climbed the long stairway.

As long as you are clear and assertive about your handicapped status, you too should be able to receive all of this same assistance when you travel.

I do have one story which also will aid your handicap maneuvering. I've mentioned that where other people tend to walk away from some outrageous stunt being pulled in public places, I rarely do. This has become more important now that I am handicapped. If I do not assert myself, I am going to suffer a lot more than when I was able bodied.

One of these events happened to me in the hotel in New Orleans.  I placed my filled coffee cup, napkins, spoon, etc., on a table in the hotel dining area.  I then walked across the room to get a plate of breakfast food. By the time I got back, a woman was sitting there across from me.  She informed me that I could not sit there because she was holding all of the seats for her party.

"But I was here before you.  That's why I set my coffee cup down," I said.

"Well, that's not enough to hold a table," she replied.

She kept talking about her right to take the table but by then I was no longer listening.  I pulled out my chair, sat down in my seat and said, "Lady, you can stop talking now because I'm a lawyer and if you want this seat you are going to have to sue me for it.  I'm not moving."

And with that I ignored her, ate my breakfast and began playing Scrabble on my iPad. She never spoke again and by the time I was done eating I noticed she was gone.

Because I have mobility problems, it would not have been a smart idea for me to try and move everything plus myself to another table when there was no valid reason for doing so. If you are traveling with a handicap, you must become assertive in behavior or you will get mowed down by everyone you encounter on your journey.

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