FINALLY, a new blog post! This one’s on the hidden aspect of travelling with a disability from my viewpoint as a wheelchair user. And even more excitingly, it’s a collaboration with Alex Ramzan from The VI Critic, check out his post on travelling with a disability as a visually impaired person here.
- It’s Time Consuming
The first thing is that travelling as a wheelchair user is waaaaaaay more time consuming. And it’s time consuming in 2 ways, both before a trip and on the day of the trip. Before a trip, there’s a bunch of hoops to jump through, firstly, I have to check if the stations I want to travel through are wheelchair accessible, then I have to check if the trains I want to travel on are wheelchair accessible (because THAT’S not always a thing) then I can book my train tickets, then I have book assistance through a phone call with the train company I’m travelling with, THEN I’m finally set to travel.
On the day, I have to turn up AT LEAST 20 minutes before my train and wait in an assistance lounge, then I have to wait to be taken to train by a staff member, then I have to wait for a ramp to enable me to get on the train, then I have to sit on the train for however long, then I have to get to the other end and wait for another ramp to appear to enable me to get off the train. You see all that waiting? That’s TIME.
- It’s Exhausting
Travelling as a wheelchair user is also exhausting. See point 1 about travel being time consuming, travel as a wheelchair user takes so much more time than it does as a non-disabled person, there’s a lot more hoops to jump through like I talked about above. And anything that takes more time also takes more energy. And so, travel as a disabled person takes so much more time and energy which makes it entirely EXHAUSTING.
- I Travel Before I Travel
Another thing I’ve found is that I take the trip in my head before I take it in reality. There are a lot of “what ifs” when travelling as a wheelchair user: What if the lift at a train or tube station breaks down? What if the assistance doesn’t turn up to get me off the train or tube? What if I’m on the bus in London and the automatic ramp breaks and I can’t get off the bus? What if there is luggage in the wheelchair space on a train and I have to make an issue to get it moved? I’m one of those people that focuses on the “what ifs”, but I feel like disability, and specifically travelling with a disability, intensifies that, there’s a lot of extra “what ifs” that disabled people have to consider and find solutions for. So, I’m always taking a trip prior to actually going, because I’m constantly coming up with the “what ifs” and figuring out solutions before they happen so I don’t meet a situation where I’m stressed and lost on what to do next. And to draw back to point 2, that feeling and situation is FLIPPING EXHAUSTING!
- It Makes Me Wary of People
I’ve also become very wary of people through my travels as a wheelchair user. I’m often on edge about how other people will react to me as a wheelchair user on public transport. Will they try to “help” me and end up potentially doing more harm? Will they offer to carry my electric wheelchair off the train if the assistance doesn’t turn up? (Don’t do that it. It’s too heavy you’ll just hurt yourself and potentially break it), will they try and push my electric wheelchair (Don’t do that either, it won’t move and you’ll potentially break it) Or will people make accessibility issues seem like my fault? ( (Like asking “did you book?” when assistance doesn’t turn up to get me off a train). I’ve just become very wary of people and am much more likely to see the issues they may give me rather than the good they’ll do. And I’d really rather it not be that way.
- Knowing the System like the Back of my Hand isn’t Cute, it’s a Necessity
I have also found that I almost HAVE to know everything about accessibility when I travel, I have to know which are the accessible tube stations, which are the accessible train stations and how to get around in between stations if I cannot go directly to my destination using an accessible station, particularly when travelling across London. I feel like I have to be like that because either a) no one else fully knows about accessibility enough and b) if they do, I’ve had enough wrong information about accessibility from other people that I’m not ever fully confident in others’ accessibility knowledge, and I’d rather not end up somewhere inaccessible.
So those are the hidden aspects of travelling with a disability, specifically from my viewpoint as a wheelchair user. Be sure to check out Alex’s post here for his viewpoint on this issue as a visually impaired person.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)