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  • Flying Tips for Wheelchair Users, From Wheelchair Users

    Posted by brianna-albers on May 28, 2019 at 11:00 am

    With Cure SMA coming up next month, I thought this article might be of interest to some of you. Barbara and Tim Twardowski put together some flying tips for wheelchair users based on personal experience. They cover everything from booking concerns to toileting and even address the importance of the Air Carrier Access Act (A.C.C.A.) in case things go wrong.

    I flew a couple of times when I was little, but I haven’t been on an airplane in over a decade. The limitations are frustrating, but at the same time, my parents and I are used to road-tripping everywhere. We considered taking the train to California, but in the end we decided to go with what’s tried and true: our van, full to bursting with luggage and snacks. Road trips aren’t all bad!

    Are you able to fly? If not, how do you go about traveling?

    yvette-haas replied 4 years, 11 months ago 6 Members · 8 Replies
  • 8 Replies
  • tracy-odell

    May 28, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    I haven’t flown for almost 20 years, because the last two times I flew it was too physically painful. It’s hard for people to pick me up and get me over the seats, and my shoulder got hurt in the process. That combined with the inability to use a washroom for hours before and after the flight to allow for onboarding, deboarding, getting my wheelchair put back together etc. has effectively deterred me. I travelled by land vehicle now or not at all.

    I’m hoping that I will see the ability to fly staying in my own wheelchair in my lifetime. Regrettably, after four years of advocacy on this topic, I don’t see airlines moving in this direction very quickly, if at all. It’s a shame, since the technology exists and has been documented by All Wheels Up.

    Is anybody here involved in pushing for changes to make airline travel possible from your own wheelchair on board the aircraft?

    • brianna-albers

      May 31, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      Oof, I’m sorry to hear that, Tracy! My chair got damaged en route one time, so flying definitely has its dangers.

      Thanks for the link! The topic definitely needs more coverage. It’s such a simple thing, but no one ever thinks of it.

  • ryan-berhar

    May 28, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    That’s all well and good, but the reality is that some of us need to remain in our wheelchairs in order to fly. It’s absolutely ridiculous that this isn’t an option yet, especially considering that we live in a world, or at least a country, that is so conscious of inequalities like this. Somehow, this has slipped through the cracks. I’m hopeful it’ll be resolved eventually.

    • brianna-albers

      May 31, 2019 at 2:01 pm

      Right?! I can’t believe it’s still an issue, especially considering the relative ease of the solution 🙄

  • halsey-blocher

    May 29, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    I haven’t flown since I was 3. There’s no way I would be able to come out of my chair. My family and I always drive everywhere. We had a wheelchair lift put in the back of and extra large high top transit van. Since it so big, there’s plenty of room for medical equipment and bags. It’s so big that one time my brother brought a small tv and his PlayStation on a long trip.

    • brianna-albers

      May 31, 2019 at 2:00 pm

      Same here, Halsey! It’s great that you have so much room – we used to have a mini TV in our van before laptops became popular.

  • deann-r

    June 1, 2019 at 8:55 am

    I don’t think I could fly either. Transferring just too difficult. Then there’s the issue of damaging the chair as well that would make me nervous. When I did fly, eons ago, we took a manual chair. Now like you Brianna and Halsey, we just drive. We had a Ford Econoline with a lift for many years, but recently downsized to a minivan. When we had the big van we got comments when we went through drive through’s about it being a “classic.”

  • yvette-haas

    July 3, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    I just recently started flying again, after deciding that I couldn’t deal with flying with my wheelchair about 12 years earlier. My trick? I built (no, I designed… others built) a custom stroller that I can happily use for traveling. While this does mean that I lose some independence for 7-10 days, it also means that I can go to places that are less accessible and don’t get tired or stressed from navigating new or difficult places, so I can actually enjoy a full day of being a tourist! As for the logistics of actually flying… I purchase 2 seats for myself, and then I lay across them. This took getting special approval from the FAA (big thanks to an SMA Mom that helped me with the petition) which was a of work but was approved for 5 years. Some airlines will give you a refund for the extra seat (shoutout to Southwest Airlines!) which is really nice. While on seats, I have to wear an E-Z-On Vest which is directly attached to the seatbelt. I also wear my BiPAP for the ride, but that mostly for comfort. Getting through TSA and then onto the plane is never fun, but once I’m settled in, I’m super comfortable for the whole ride! If anyone wants more info about the petition process, packing, TSA, the E-Z-On Vest, the batteries I use for during the flight, or my diy stroller, just let me know! 😉

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