Lately, it’s seemed like it’s not a vacation for me unless something goes wrong. I’ve been to the Hilton Head ER because of nosebleeds, been to the ER in NYC and also have my feeding tube start to come out while traveling there on a different trip… it’s always something!
This trip seemed to be off to a good start – the plane wasn’t delayed, and there was no damage to the wheelchairs during the flight. But when my parents went to go pick up our rental van, that’s where the issues began.
Because my sister and I both use wheelchairs, our rental van needs are pretty specific. We can’t go to Hertz or Avis or any of the normal car rental places – none of them stock accessible vehicles. So we have to rent through a business that specifically deals with accessible vans and minivans. And because we need one that can fit two wheelchairs, we’re even more limited. It might not seem like that big of a deal, but many rental companies are not able to accommodate two wheelchairs. So we made sure to stress, in writing, that there were two wheelchairs, we gave the dimensions, and said we’d need two sets of tie-downs.
Unfortunately, my parents got to the parking lot and saw that the van set aside for us had only one set of tie-downs, and wasn’t large enough to fit both of our chairs (they were lined up one in front of each other, rather than side-to-side like our normal minivan). Because it was a Saturday afternoon, it took a while to get the manager to come to the office, and for us to find out that luckily, they did have a minivan in the lot that would work for us. By this point, it had already been four hours since our flight landed, and we still had to check into the hotel, unpack, and get dinner! And if there hadn’t been a minivan that worked for us, I really don’t know what we would have done.
Because things can never be too easy, we did have one more issue. I don’t want to get into too much detail on this one, because things aren’t completely resolved, but the breathing machine I use overnight stopped working. When we called our local medical supply company back in Pennsylvania, they weren’t able to find a replacement machine for me. I was getting nervous, but my sister had the idea to call Give Kids The World Village. I’ve talked about Give Kids The World in this post – they’re a village located outside of Orlando where all of the Make-A-Wish kids get to stay. They do accessibility so well – they make every aspect of their little community accessible (the pool, the merry-go-round, everything), and make every guest feel so special. Less than five minutes after calling them, they had referred us to a local supply company in Orlando, and we had scheduled a drop off of a rental piece of equipment to our hotel that day. I am so grateful that they were able to help!
These are the things that make traveling with a disability so stressful. No matter how much you try to plan and prepare, there are always things that can go wrong. And when they do, it’s not always a simple, quick fix. When the rental van isn’t right, we can’t just go to the counter and ask for a new one. I’d love to see regular car rental companies stocking accessible vehicles, as well! We still have a ways to go to make traveling simpler for people with disabilities.