Difficulties with traveling with a 200+ pound power chair

The website AbleThrive curates and delivers solutions for life with a disability. Each week, they connect people through social media to share how people participate in daily activities. This week’s theme is #ThisIsHowI travel.

People can post photos and short videos of themselves traveling by any mode of transportation. As many of you know, my mode of transportation is my Toyota Sienna rampvan that I drive with a joystick system.

My most recent trip was this past weekend as a I traveled by charter bus to Ghent, West Virginia.

Traveling by bus with a wheelchair

I joined the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and youth group of St. Matthew Baptist Church as we traveled to Winterplace Ski Resort. It’s a trip we take almost every year.

wheelchair-lift-charter-bus

The wheelchair lift is at the back of the bus allowing a person to stay in their chair while traveling.

A few bus companies have busses equipped with wheelchair lifts allowing people with disabilities to stay in their wheelchairs while on the trip. The chair is tied down the same way as in personal vehicles.

The bus we used had a wheelchair lift; however the company knew the lift’s circuit board wasn’t working. A couple mechanics came to diagnose the problem, but the lift couldn’t be repaired. It was quite an exhausting process to crank the lift to get me and my 200+ pound chair on the bus.

Unfortunately, once we arrived in West Virginia and stopped for dinner, the hand crank broke as I was getting back on the bus. At least the lift could be lowered so that I wasn’t stranded on the platform. Since the electronic system was already broken, the hand crank is the only mechanism to stow the ramp inside the bus.

While a group of people worked on the lift, another set of folks, including myself, called around for a wheelchair accessible taxi or vehicle to get me to the hotel. We were eventually able to get the Princeton, WV Rescue Squad to come to my rescue! I was surprised they have a wheelchair-accessible rampvan! The officer was able to take me and my mom to the hotel.

In the meantime, a mechanic who happened to be at the restaurant when the lift was out of commission, was able to get the broken piece fixed. The lift was then able to be stowed and the rest of the group finally made it to the hotel.

I’m not a superstitious person, but that was definitely an eventful Friday, the 13th!!

To ensure the lift didn’t break down again, I had a few guys carry me on the bus and we stored my wheelchair in the cargo section as we went to and from the ski resort. Once we arrived, everything went smoothly. Everyone enjoyed shredding on the slopes and had a good time! I didn’t try adaptive skiing this time, but may give it a try the next time.

On our trip back Sunday, we tested the hand crank and I was able to stay in my wheelchair all the way back home.

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Winterplace Ski Resort – Ghent, West Virginia

Tips for accessible travel

I’ve traveled by bus, plane and train over the years. I have to always be prepared for anything to go wrong, whether it’s my wheelchair or mode of transportation.

It’s important to make sure the bus is in working order beforehand. Make sure you let the bus company know the type of power chair. In my case, the chair cannot be folded and I need it to sit comfortably.

Be sure to locate mobility van rental companies. They may be closed after hours and on weekends, but some places have an after-hours phone line where you can talk to someone.

Check to see if there are wheelchair taxis or a Paratransit system nearby. If all else fails, call the local fire squad to see what they have available. It worked in my case!

I want to hear from you. How have you turned a travel situation around for the better? Also, post your videos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #ThisIsHowI travel.

 

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About Tuesday Talk With Alex

Born in Charleston, SC, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident when I was nine months old. I acquired a C5-C6 spinal cord injury. I'm now 30 years old and I do not let my disability deter me from acheiving my goals and enjoying life. I will be sharing my experience of living with a spinal cord injury.
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