I love to travel! I am officially addicted, and can’t wait to take on the world. However, it can be a bit difficult with a wheelchair, especially electric. So read a bit about me to see what equipment I require and how I like to go about things in terms of comfort and accessibility. This can be a starter guide to assess your own needs and requirements.
I use a Quantum 6000, which includes the tilt function and a head rest. This chair is pretty strong for traveling over rough terrain (not sand!), but I prefer relatively smoother roads. It weighs approximately 250 lbs and is too hard to lift into a car on a regular basis. I also use a smaller indoor electric wheelchair at home. I have brought this on one trip so far, and will only do so if we are staying in one place and have the right transportation for 2 electric chairs.
UPDATE: (April 2015) I now use a Permobil C300. It has the tilt and recline function.
I hate them! I do not personally own one, so every time I travel I have to rent. They are of course then never suited exactly for me. Also, I hate not being in control due to my inability to propel myself and will avoid it at all costs. Therefore my reviews and tips will be first and foremost for electric wheelchairs, and for those who do not leave their chairs to travel around.
I am not able to walk, so to transfer from say a wheelchair to bed, I use a pivot transfer. My feet do not leave the ground and I can weight-bare only a little. Therefore, all reviews have heights that are both not too high or low. I also require assistance to do so (i.e. attendant).
Who I travel with
When I was younger, it was just my parents whom I travelled with. Now that I am 26, I take an attendant (usually a friend) and travel with my best friends. Your attendant (and friends to some extent) should know right from the get go what you intend to do on this trip in terms of what you are capable of. Remember, this is your trip and you should do what you want. I hate feeling guilty if a plan doesn’t work out because it is unaccessible or I don’t feel comfortable doing it for safety reasons (i.e. being lifted out of my chair or going up a slightly sketchy ramp). Explain in advance that you will not do something just to please everyone else. I find that friends are more understanding because they have known you longer. Usually attendants I have not known as long and therefore they do not understand that when I say no, it means I’m not going to change my mind! So a clear understanding between you and your attendant can reduce stress during unexpected hitches in your plans.
If you are paying your attendants (and even if not), it is best to create a contract to lay out what their responsibilities are. It is a very uncomfortable conversation to have after the trip if your attendant was expecting more money, or was not aware what their job would entail.
All showers must be walk in. If there is a small step (no larger than 3 inches. I can then pivot transfer right over it), it is usable. When not at home, I will put a plastic chair to sit on. Tubs are too hard to get in, plus chairs will usually not fit. I try to find places with pictures of the bathroom to make sure it is accessible. A description is not often enough, as people’s perceptions of accessibility is not always the same as mine.
UPDATE: (December 2013) I now own a bathtub seat with head rest. I will be bringing them on future trips, as I find them easier than sitting on a borrowed chair in a shower. The bathseat can be fit in a large suitcase, or a second one. However, I will continue to add photos with showers (when available).
Bipap and sleeping at night
At night I require a Bipap machine to sleep and am not able to do so without it. I also require sleeping on air mattresses since I have had a spinal fusion. So every trip I pack a twin air mattress (Aerobed) and bring my own soft pillow. Surprisingly enough, it is not very heavy, so don’t worry about luggage weight allowances. I don’t!