Before multiple sclerosis came along I was an avid traveler. At different times I even lived and worked In Germany, France, Mexico and Jamaica. I loved getting out and meeting new people, experiencing different customs and enjoying amazing new food.
When my mobility became a struggle, it was then that I realized just how inaccessible so much of the world truly is, both here in America and abroad. You never really think about those things until they affect you personally.
I remember once requesting an accessible hotel room but when I arrived I discovered how truly inaccessible it really was. Yes, there were grab bars in the bathroom and a shower chair in the bathtub which is a must for me to be able to safely shower, but they had a large armoire positioned in such a way that made it impossible for a wheelchair to get through to the rest of the room.
I had to talk with the hotel management to get things remedied which they gladly did, but it was then that I realized how little the able-bodied world plans for the disabled. I hated having to speak up about the problem I was having, but I knew that if I didn’t say something, the next person would have the same issues as me and may not be as calm.
For me, rental cars have turned into a (much harder to find) accessible van. Not every location has them available and public transit is not as convenient or timely. Sometimes the lack of a proper vehicle to get around in is enough to keep me from leaving home.
One of my biggest issues though is wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Even today they don’t truly exist in many places. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to use the bathroom with the stall door open just because I couldn’t close the door with my wheelchair in the way. Talk about embarrassing. Ugh!
Traveling anywhere away from home takes a lot of effort, time and planning. Sometimes it is just easier for me to not make the trip. That’s one of the hardest things for me: wanting to be a part of something amazing but not being able to really be there because of accessibility issues.
I still travel when I can but not as much as I would like. Someday I will make that Alaskan cruise, visit the tulip fields in the Netherlands, and take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Never stop dreaming. Anything is possible even with a disability, you just may have to plan things differently than you have had to in times past.
For another, fun take on travel with MS, check out Penelope’s newest blog post, All Aboard the Multiple Sclerosis Express.
*Penelope Conway was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November 2011. She is the author and founder of Positive Living with MS (positivelivingwithms.com) where she uses humor and her own life experiences with MS to help others navigate this unpredictable journey. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day.