Planning Ahead for Accessible Travel
Friendly Wheels, Issue 87
With Sister Karen Zielinski, of the Sisters of St. Francis, Ohio
During a recent trip, an airline pilot told Sister Karen Zielinski “More people with disabilities need to get around and fly.”
Sister Karen couldn’t agree more, and vowed to spread that message to others.
Though traveling with a disability may seem intimidating at first, Sister Karen says a little pre-planning can go a long way. “The attitude that it is too much trouble to travel with a mobility challenge is an additional misunderstanding of what a person with a wheelchair or cart can do,” Sister Karen said.
She recently traveled from the Sisters of St. Francis in Ohio to Dallas, where she participated in a conference hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Traveling alone, she made sure to plan in advance and think outside the box in preparing for her trip. Through her travels, Sister Karen has found the following tips helpful when flying with an Amigo:
- When booking your ticket, make note that you use an Amigo. Request a seat on the aisle in the bulkhead (first row behind first class)
- Tell the agent at the gate that the Amigo is yours and not a rental. Listing your name, address and cell phone number on the Amigo can also be helpful if it is misplaced
- Make your needs known and ask for help if you need it — flight attendants and pilots are glad to help
- Before landing, remind a flight attendant that your Amigo will be waiting at the gate
- When waiting to deplane, call to confirm accessible transportation to your destination. Book a van with a ramp so you can drive your Amigo onto the van
At the conference, Sister Karen participated in a workshop of specialists in the MS community. The group included neurologists, scientists from the NIH (National Institute of Health) and people with MS. Along with others, Sister Karen focused on the healing aspects of spirituality.
The conference building was conveniently adjacent to Sister Karen’s hotel, so before making her way to the venue she made sure the route was accessible. “The best surprise is no surprise when traveling with limited mobility,” Sister Karen said.
Though travel can be unpredictable, Sister Karen says, “What you think will happen usually never does.” It’s important to be prepared for the unexpected, but not to fret about situations that probably won’t arise. Asking pertinent questions and extra planning help make traveling with a disability manageable.
In June Sister Karen will attend another conference in Indianapolis. After her hard work, she plans on vacationing with some Sister friends at a location to be determined in the fall!
To read more of Sister Karen’s travel tips, check out her article in Healthy Living News.