Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel; in fact I’ve spent a good part of my life encouraging everyone to get out and explore the world. Not only does travel broaden your horizons, but it also expands your understanding of the global community. Plus it’s just kind of fun.
But for people with a disability, travel offers another sometimes overlooked benefit –it increases independence. Talk to anyone who has taken their first plane trip after becoming disabled, and they are on top of the world because they did something that they thought — or were told — was impossible. And they take that attitude home and apply it to their daily life, and that just fosters more independence.
So we all get it — travel is good.
That said, never in all of my life have I ever misled anyone to believe it would be easy. Truth be told, it takes some planning, and a good attitude; but yes it certainly is possible.
That’s why I almost spit up my coffee when I read the following quote in a CNN piece on “How the Disabled Experience Travel”. It’s from a British woman with arthritis.
“Flying can be the best part of the trip,” she says. “Without having to pay any extras, wheelchair users skip the queues at check-in and security and get ushered through to the gate and onto the plane first. It’s like being a celebrity without the hassle of being paid all that money and having all that inconvenient fame stuff!”
First things first — flying is NEVER the best part of the trip. For anyone. Period. If you think that, then you haven been on a plane since the 1960s.
Second, these are not “perks” they are rights — the right to equal access without discrimination.
Third, there’s no shortage of people who don’t like being singled out because of their disability, and I’m sure those folks wouldn’t consider being wheeled to the front of the line while everybody else watched, whispered and pointed at them, as “being treated like a celebrity”.
Fourth, most real celebrities fly on private planes. Seriously, when was the last time you saw Oprah at the baggage carousel?
Fifth, I’ve never considered being paid money a “hassle”.
And last but certainly not least, I hate this quote because it just feeds the fallacy that having a disability “gets you a whole lot of cool stuff”. And that just makes things harder for other disabled folks.
So by all means keep on traveling, or give it a try for the first time. But stay grounded in reality, prepare for the trip and always have a what-if plan. It’s the only way to go.