I’d have to say the most memorable trips I have ever taken were the ones in which humor came to play. When you travel with a family member who uses a wheelchair, you tend to laugh, A LOT!
With just Jon (now 18 yr old son with CP) , one such trip was the Washington DC trip for a leadership conference. The conference was a week long, with teens from all over the US who, judging by their attitudes, had never encountered a person with a wheelchair before, let alone interacted with one. We were picked up on a charter bus at the airport, and that is when the fun began. It was also apparent that Jon was the first person to attend this conference who used a wheelchair. He was the only person using a wheelchair-and yes, we brought his power one, as he had been to Washington DC several times before, and found the main tourist sites very accessible. That’s when the real fun began….
The bus that arrived was a newer model bus, equipped with a wheelchair lift, which meant that Jon would be sitting up in the middle of the bus, instead of the back, his usual spot. Sadly, the driver had little experience using the lift. He managed to push some of the seats back on the bus, and get Jon on it-riding sideways as he did not know how to move the seats back all the way, let alone tie him down. So, all the kids had to hop over him to sit further back on the bus, as he was up near the front of the bus, sticking out into the aisle. I simply watched, with an eyebrow raised, and held onto the frame of the wheelchair (like that would have helped had we been in a crash)
We got to the hotel a bit late after a long day of flying, and of course, Jon had not
been able to use a restroom on the planes-not accessible. The driver of the bus
started to get the lift out and it got stuck, it wouldn’t go up all the way. He’s grumbling and cursing, but not talking to any of his passengers. I finally encourage all the kids to get off, get their luggage, and go into the hotel. This time, when the kids hop over Jon, they all apologized, like somehow this was
their fault. A few even made eye contact. The director of the program came out, and also apologizing, as the driver continued to curse, and call the bus company to have someone come out.
Jon, stuck on the bus for half an hour, with no end in sight, missed the start of the program.
What to do? Well, I believe in grand entrances, and also that anything can be dealt with. I called 911 to rescue Jon off the bus. The driver continued to curse and growl, but the program director agreed. We called 911 and not only did they get him off the bus, they also got his power chair off the bus! Very friendly and helpful, and I thanked them profusely. Of course, what did the driver do? That’s right! Glared and growled some more.
It made for an amusing start to what turned out to be the most inaccessible trip we have ever taken to a generally accessible place. (Restaurants with elevators that are blocked off by chairs and tables, further adventures with the bus, finding the back way into some buildings off the tourist path…)It just goes to show you, that even with accessible things-without people versed in how to use those things it means nothing. All the stuff in the world did not help Jon get off that bus-what would have was a driver who knew how to use the equipment ( yes, it was just driver error). When traveling the best thing to pack is a sense of humor.