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So My name is Anna. I am the youngest of a family of 3 children. I am passionate about traveling and I travel despite my disability. I tell you everything in this article …
BEFORE EVERYTHING, MY LITTLE HISTORY …
When I was born, I was diagnosed with a non-progressive congenital neuromuscular disease called arthrogryposis, a barbaric name that seemed to condemn me to life in a wheelchair forever. This disease is characterized by stiffness and a limited range of motion affecting the joints. In my case, my arms and my left foot are affected. Even today, I do not have enough strength to lift my arms, and I basically use my left-hand every day.
While I was still a baby, the doctors predicted that I would never walk.
That day, the world collapsed under the feet of my parents. I stayed in the hospital for over a year, a decision that was beyond their control. Very early, I was supported by an army of teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists who did everything in their power to allow me to be as independent as possible in adulthood help of operations, rehabilitation exercises, splints, not to mention the series of plasters and appliances … My parents had bought me a trotter to help me walk when they had permission from me bring home on weekends and during holidays. I was 15 months old when one day I was with my family and because I do not know what miracle – and by the will of God – I managed for the first time to walk without needing help. The joy it created around me was indescribable. Shortly after, the medical team made the decision to go to my parents, and I finally left the hospital.
My parents, supported by my brothers and sisters, have made every effort to grow up blissfully and unashamedly despite my disability and frequent visits to the hospital. My brothers and sisters took me everywhere with them. At age 6, they taught me to swim, to ride a bike. My parents had enrolled me in all kinds of activities that helped me to flourish: plastic arts, computer programming, horseback riding, archery, kayaking, climbing, skiing … Nothing seemed impossible to me. In everything I did, I was lucky to come across people who made me feel like I was a normal child. They always adapted the activity so that I could participate, in my own way. Even today, the people I meet are very friendly and often offer me their help. The environment in which I evolved encouraged me to trust myself. Thanks to my family and all around me, I was able to develop other faculties with which I tamed my handicap, this handicap which both bothered me and nourished this incessant desire to surpass me.
Over time, I learned to manage my daily life by finding solutions to my limitations: how to dress and prepare myself in the morning, how to prepare a meal … My disability became my strength.
My main goal in life has always been to no longer be dependent on others, to gain my autonomy to realize my dreams … and dreams I have to shovel. Over time, I learned that with a lot of courage and will, you can do incredible things!
THE TRIP: MY GREAT PASSION
Travel has been an integral part of my life since my early childhood. My parents love to travel. My best childhood memories were when we were taking the family road in our mini van to visit our family and friends across Europe and Morocco – discovering new horizons and other cultures open up spirit and also allows to grow with humility. Today I am almost autonomous and I live life to the fullest.
My most memorable trips have been to Guadeloupe, New York, and Turkey. Europe is often my playground. I take pleasure in discovering the cities of the old continent for a weekend.
I travel regularly, but now I feel ready to travel alone.
HANDICAP AND TRAVEL ARE NOT INCOMPATIBLE :
Many people think that traveling is not accessible to people with disabilities or reduced mobility (PRM), or that traveling with them is complicated. I was amazed at the number of globetrotters who roam the world despite their disability. Every year, the number of passengers with reduced mobility increases considerably, especially since, recently, a lot of services have been set up to facilitate travel for people with disabilities / PRMs. Great travelers like Audrey from the Roulettes and Backpacks blog inspired me to take my courage and start traveling alone.
TRAVELING WITH A DISABLED: THE PRACTICAL-PRACTICAL GUIDE
Traveling with a disability requires planning everything in advance: planes, accessible taxis, hotels (also available). Of course, every handicap is unique and there are lots of difficulties. In my case, I need help cutting food, carrying a tray, bags and heavy luggage. I have trouble making minute gestures with my hands and lifting my arms. I can walk, but I can not take long trips at the risk of getting tired. All this of course does not prevent me from traveling because I have a lot of imagination and especially because I learned to prepare well.
Here are some tips and tricks to consider when planning your trip for travelers with disabilities or reduced mobility.
TRAVEL BY PLANE WITH A DISABILITY
Most airlines have a free helpline for PRMs. Before booking your tickets, ask about the support service set up for people with disabilities / PMR. You must book this service beforehand at least 48 hours before your trip. They will take care of you at check-in – you will be a priority, as well as your escort if you have one – all along the trip, to your destination. This service is also accessible to the elderly or having difficulties to move, on request at the time of booking online or by contacting the service in question.
Also remember to inform you about the airports / stations of departure and arrival and the rules of the company: do they have a help desk? Are they equipped to load / unload my cargo seat? Do I have to travel accompanied? Do I need to apply for medical authorizations? etc.
ACCESSIBILITY IN TAXIS AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Do not forget to inquire about the accessibility of taxis and public transport in the countries you plan to visit. You will find some practical links at the end of this article.
TRAVEL BY TRAIN WITH A DISABLED
The train journey for people with reduced mobility is unfortunately accessible mainly in Western countries. we must still think about getting information about the accessibility of trains before making reservations. In many cases, transport companies offer accompanying solutions to facilitate travel for travelers with disabilities.
ACCESSIBILITY IN HOTELS, RESTAURANTS, PUBLIC TOILETS …
Infrastructures vary enormously according to the country. Often, in most Western countries, there are guides listing hotels, restaurants, public toilets and sometimes museums whose access has been studied for people with disabilities. Many hotels are designed to be accessible to people with reduced mobility. Unfortunately, options for people with disabilities are often not the cheapest.
THE INVALIDITY CARD: A MUST HAVE
The vast majority of people with disabilities are in possession of a disability card. This card will be your sesame. It offers access to many benefits depending on where you are: priority access to several tourist attractions (no more long queues), discounts or free (public transport, parking or exhibitions / museums) for you and an escort … I use my disability card to discover a lot of cool stuff, like the disability can also have some benefits. Before an outing / visit, find out about the rates, you will be surprised at the number of things to do for free thanks to this disability card, whether in your city or during your travels.
YOUR MEDICAL FILE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Remember to always have a paper (in English and French) indicating your medical contraindications (not so much the name of the drugs, but rather the chemical components).
If you have cerebral palsy, consider having a sheet with your destination and a map of the city.
Take medical travel insurance and keep the address of the hospital where you want to be repatriated in the event of a major incident.
Remember to contact the consulate or embassy if there is a problem.
TRAVEL WITH A WHEELCHAIR: SOME REFLEXES TO TAKE
In order to anticipate the glitches with your wheelchair, think about the fittings, those of bicycle to inflate the tires of the big wheels, and those of motorcycles the small wheels. Also think of the patches, the pump, the tool kit. Also bring a spare tube for small wheel, very difficult to find abroad. Be aware that to replace small inflatable tires, there are solid tires of the same size, which have the advantage of not bursting and being off-road. In case of a mechanical incident, instead of desperately searching for a wheelchair repairer, why not go to a mechanic or a bicycle repairer? They are able to perform most of the necessary repairs.