Hi to all the readers of the Audacity Magazine. Let me introduce myself. My name is Julie Stonestreet. I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta type III/IV. I am 29 and live in Sydney, Australia. For the past eight years, I have worked for Qantas Airlines as an International Travel Consultant.
I am so excited to have the opportunity to write a column on traveling around the world. If anybody has any questions that they would like to ask, please feel free to do so. I have traveled to many places in the world and would like to help you spread your wings, and hopefully give everyone the travel bug.
Now, before you decide to visit your travel consultant, there are a couple of things you might like to think about. Traveling with a disability can be made so much easier if you have everything planned in advance, and have found out about the destination that you wish to travel to.
You need to work out the season in which you want to travel. If you want to go to a country that has very different seasons, you may want to find out first when is the best time of year to travel. For example, you might not want to travel to Asia in the monsoon season, as you will have rain every day.
If you are traveling with a wheelchair, electric or otherwise, you may want to check with the airline to determine what the requirements are as to how they transport your chair. Most airlines will carry your chair for free and not charge you for extra baggage. When you do travel, I would suggest that you tape some foam to your chair to save it from being damaged during the flight. Sometimes, they are not too careful with your goods, and you don’t want to end up with a damaged chair at the other end. Another good idea is to get them to put a fragile tag on the chair, so that the handlers know to be more careful with your wheels. Other items that they may not charge you to transport are shower seats or special chairs. If you are traveling with an electric chair, you will have to find out about the requirements of traveling with a wet cell or dry cell battery. Every airline is different. In future columns, I will give more information about these areas.
Make sure you ask the travel agent to book an accommodation with wheelchair accessibility, and, if they are unsure, you can even email the hotel directly to find out first if they have rooms that are equipped for you and your chair. Even one tiny step can be a real hassle for you on your holiday. It’s better to find out before you go, rather than turning up and then having to try to find a better hotel.
Different countries around the world have different levels of accessibility. What you will find in the States or Australia will be very different than what you will find in other areas of the world. This is due to the fact that they may not have the same laws that we have. Therefore, they can be very lax in the way they have their infrastructure set out. If you are unsure, make sure you talk to someone that has been there before.
For example, when I traveled to Bali, the gutters were really high. Because of the monsoon rains, they have huge gutters to accommodate the large amounts of rain. This can be a hassle for a person in a wheelchair. They also have huge holes in the pavement. You can be walking along and then all of a sudden there is a huge pothole. They don’t have warning signs, and you have to carefully walk around them. That’s not to say all parts of Bali are like this, but getting around in the city is something to consider when you are traveling.
Finally, before you make your booking, check with your travel agent to find out if there are any concessions for your carer or traveling companion. Sometimes, airlines will have special fares that will entitle them to a discount if they are traveling with you.
If anyone has any questions about this article, or any other information that they would like to know about, please contact me at the magazine’s email firstname.lastname@example.org and address it JULES! You will see your question and response in the next column.