Today’s guest post is by Bianca.
Almost 3 years ago, my husband, Jesús, suffered from a massive stroke. With a lot of therapy, he was able to work himself out of the wheelchair, though the damage we still live with today are his inability to move his right hand, inability to speak, and inability to move his right foot. Nonetheless, we’ve adapted to this new normal. He has been training to be a veritable southpaw, now able to draw and write. His comprehension is intact so he uses gestures and drawing to communicate, and occasionally, words from the 5 languages he used to speak come out. He has over-compensated his inability to move his right foot with ridiculously strong quad muscles, which has enabled him to walk.
It took us a year after the stroke to take our first trip by plane. It’s gotten manageable since with all the tricks we’ve developed. In 2014, we tackled NYC, and there we identified some of the challenges we now have with our new situation. But, in 2015, we did Boston, and you bet your passport we’ve learned how to overcome these challenges. Check it out below!
When in the past, we were always able to make a run for the nearest W/C, that is one of our major challenges now. Even now, Jesús hasn’t realized that me always asking, “honey, you need to go?”, meant, just go even if you don’t have to. For this, we actually do pack a portable urinal and an Udder cover. As we got lost making a turn in Boston that led us to a freeway, having this was a lifesaver!
But then there was one time we were in the middle of Central Park, and for some reason, we either couldn’t find the restrooms on the map, or the ones we found were closed. My darling husband, he was walking as fast as he could with his cane to get out of the park. Thankfully, what’s prolific downtown? Hotels. Making for one is always a sure shot. Also, restaurants. We’ve been lucky enough to use restaurant restrooms without having to sit down by just asking. Because really, there are still kind souls out there who can set aside their 3 Michelin star status for compassion and consideration.
The glittering lights of Times Square make tourists look up and about, and not that much around, it seems. Everyone just has somewhere to be at the quickest possible time down at the Financial District. And, one seems to always plan to cover the most ground at the Met. It is easy to feel obliged to go with the pace around you. Well, you’re almost just forced into it at times.
To overcome this is through sheer will: DON’T GET FORCED INTO IT. Take your own time. In any bustling city, the locals are like the snowboarders behind you on a mountain. They see you, the tourist, and they will steer around you. So you really don’t have to keep up with them.
Being my husband’s caretaker, this entails being able to physically support him. To do that, plus taking pictures, plus paying the cabbie, plus sending a text to other travel companions, this means everything has to be handy, while my hands remain free. Sling bags, cross-body bags and backpacks are a good solution. For my phone, I’ve bought a phone case with a lanyard from Amazon. Aside from it being handy, around my neck, over my shoulder or around my wrists, the straps give an added sense of security when taking photos from, say, the top of the Empire State Building.
Most big cities are walkable, however, that is already tiring for me, what more for my husband.
There is, of course, the convenience of having a car. And, I do make the extra effort to go to the DMV and get a disabled travel parking placard, which can be used in the US and Canada. When taking the train, avoiding the rush hour is a great simple way to make moving about easier. If you do take the train, remember, MIND THE GAP! With my husband unable to move his foot, getting caught between the gap is a tripping hazard more than falling. If you can’t bring a car and not keen on moving crowds, there’s always the trusty yellow cab, or these days, Uber. I’ve relied a lot on the latter because choosing the right car size not just what’s available has become very important with our new situation.
BOOK EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE
I’ve always done this as much as possible, even before the stroke. For tickets, sometimes lines can really get long and the wait is energy being wasted to see the sights. At the Empire State Building, the guards let us use a different elevator and go through another line for our convenience – because we had our tickets already. For restaurants, reserving a table also gives me the opportunity to request for a specific table, one that would be safe for Jesús to move about as he pleases.
Hope these help you on your next city adventure! Would definitely love to hear any of your tips and tricks for traveling with disabilities! Share in the comments.
Author Bio: Bianca is one of the founders of get there | get lost. She is an avid writer and photographer based in Northern California. Her love for history, literature, architecture and food culminate to her passion for traveling and learning about different cultures. She advocates for accessible travel, and continues to explore with her husband and travel partner, Jesús, despite physical limitations.