Browsing Tag: Disabilities

Calspan, conducts the first crash test of wheelchair tie downs in history.

I am writing this article on my way to the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) Policy and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss Accessible Air Travel with other advocates and Southwest Airlines. All Wheels Up has come a long way from our first grassroots efforts in 2011.  If I was asked when we started if All Wheels Up would we be invited by the MDA to come join their advocacy efforts for Accessible Airplane Travel, I would have never believed it. Today we are working in informal coalitions with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Spinal Association, and Easter Seals who have all taken on Accessible Travel as a platform in recent years.

In 2011, All Wheels Up came about because of one trip my family took to Chicago on an airplane. Simple for most families, but my son uses a wheelchair. What should have been an easy trip quickly became a struggle to get a severely physically disabled child into an airplane seat safely. As other families stared at us, I could only think how much safer it would be if he could just travel in his wheelchair.

Lavatory on a Boeing 787 for ANA.

Lavatory on an ANA Boeing 787

The last thing I wanted to do was break my wife’s arm, but that’s what happened as I tried to get her through the narrow door of the plane’s lavatory. It wasn’t intentional of course, but there is not enough room inside for a helper and a disabled person to be in the  lavatory at the same time. So rather than stepping in first and safely pulling her in, I tried to move her in backwards. That turned out to be a big mistake.

We learned the hard way. The lavatory door had the “wheelchair accessible” symbol. One would have thought it would at least be safe, albeit inconveniently narrow. However, the little on-board wheelchair (a.k.a. aisle chair) wouldn’t fit through the lavatory door. What was to be a relaxing and fun vacation with friends in San Antonio became instead a five-day stay at a Texas hospital for my wife. We have learned that life with a disability means we continually make adjustments. Sometimes the best laid plans can go astray.