Exploring the world in a wheelchair

In this edition of Spinal WA eNews,


Travelling with a spinal cord injury

Caught the travel bug? Have your dream destination in mind? Whether you are planning a trip around the world or being a local tourist, there is a lot to plan and organise when you have a spinal cord injury. 

Doing your research is essential when planning an accessible adventure. It is important to keep the following in mind: where you'll go, how you'll travel, truly accessible accommodation, ensuring you have enough medications and supplies, organising equipment and researching accessible activities at your destination. 

Incontinence management and air travel

Managing incontinence on a plane may pose a number of issues, but shouldn't stop you from travelling. Most airlines require that people needing assistance travel with a companion who can help with personal care functions, such as emptying leg-bags/urinals or assisting with transfers to/from the toilet.

Here are some quick tips for air travel taken from the SCIA website:

  • Although it is important to maintain adequate hydration, you might plan to reduce excessive fluid consumption before boarding so that you need fewer toilet visits/less leg-bag emptying. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they are diuretics that can lead to dehydration.
  • Although you might not usually use one, an indwelling catheter may be a more convenient option during the flight.
  • Take enough spare disposable drainage bags or receptacles. These might be specialist equipment items or drink containers, zip-lock bags etc.
  • At check-in, ask whether an empty seat can be allocated next to you so that you will have as much privacy as possible when tending to personal care.
Another important aspect to consider on long trips is taking care of your skin to avoid pressure injuries/ulcers. Don't forget to keep up a good pressure relief regime and carefully monitor your skin for redness.

For more information on accessible transport and travel,  the SCIA website has a useful article, covering accommodation, tips and tricks with flying, hiring accessible vehicles and more. Our Travel section on the Spinal WA website also has some fantastic information on travelling locally and internationally. 

An accessible adventure in New Zealand

Is New Zealand your dream destination? 

Ability Adventures is New Zealand's premier enabling travel company, specialising in accessible travel holidays and accessible tourism for seniors and travellers with disabilities. 

Ability Adventures provides personalised itineraries and private tours throughout New Zealand where one or more people travelling have a physical or learning disability, is a slow walker or simply may need that bit of extra support along the way.

Click here to start your own New Zealand adventure!

Travel Inspiration

In Swahili, hakuna matata translates as "no problems". I put this to the test recently and what transpired was probably one of the best holidays of my life. I spent three weeks travelling through Kenya and Tanzania, experiencing an amazing culture, wonderful people and spectacular scenery. I certainly will not say there were no problems, but they paled into insignificance compared to the overall experience.

I'm a C4/C5 complete quadriplegic and this is how we did it…

With me was a carer, who is a qualified RN in the Philippines, and my husband, a retired military veteran. While their contribution was mobility, skill and fitness, I took on the role of plans and logistics.

Our final itinerary was largely by road, so our luggage limit was 23 kg per person. As anyone with a disability knows, this is nigh on the impossible, but by travelling with two companions I was able to scrounge extra kilograms from them. The load list included:

  • basic manual chair, rather than my usual heavy-duty powered chair
  • slide sheet and sling in our cabin baggage, rather than a portable hoist
  • new "Nuprodux" commode - a little number that folds up into a carry-on size suitcase weighing just 12 kg
  • my medications and supplies, calculated to include exactly what I needed for four weeks on the road
  • a thin air cushion made by ROHO – perfect for me to sit on during long flights and all our hours on the road

Travelling by road in our private Landcruiser Troop Carrier meant allowances for my disability did not affect other travellers. Roads were largely dirt and rough but taken slowly while game viewing, and there were only three exceptionally long days from one destination to another. Our vehicle had a seat removed for ease of getting me in and out, and this also enabled me to sit in more comfort.

The driver was an invaluable source of knowledge of local culture, wildlife and habitat, so much more of which is seen when travelling by road. We enjoyed views of village life, Masai market days, children herding goats and zebras wandering amongst cattle. Schoolchildren make the most of the walk home from school by carrying water and firewood, and we learned of the Masai male circumcision celebration when passing a village gathering. At a border crossing I was a curiosity for a man in a lovingly home-made timber wheelchair.

This trip took commitment and the expectation that things would go wrong, but we all agreed we would do it again. It was the local culture that showed us that the true meaning of hakuna matata is making do with what's available, and maybe that it's not worth sweating the small stuff.

An excerpt from a personal story by Christine Tink taken from Accord Autumn 2019 by Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.

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