Justin laughing, sitting in wheelchair with communication device, wall mural of cartoon figures of man and woman inspired by Gary Larson

The Trip

The last time I flew on a plane was in April 2015 on a church youth trip to Boston. There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. Had some major health stuff going on like DBS surgeries, foot surgeries, etc.
  2. I had outgrown my old manual chair that I had used for the Boston trip and didn’t get my current manual chair until this past summer.
  3. We weren’t comfortable bringing my power chair on a plane because if it gets broken on the way, it’d be terrible, and I’d be stuck laying in a hotel bed until the chair is repaired because wheelchairs for me are customized and I can’t just sit in any wheelchair.
  4. There isn’t a good way to bring the shower/toilet chair that I need on a plane and Rifton doesn’t make a travel version of my adult large chair – only the smaller pediatric versions.
  5. COVID delayed planning trips and actually postponed our trip by a month.

Why Austin?

I may have mentioned in my blog, that I have a dream of going to England. I want to see Wimbledon and Liverpool football matches. Listen to live music in a pub. Check out museums. Just experience life in another country. To make that dream a reality, we needed to see how it would work to fly – I’m about 6’4” tall and weigh a lot more than I did the last time I flew. I no longer have a custom seating insert in my wheelchair that can be removed and strapped into a plane to help me sit with enough support in a plane seat. I needed to see if I could do a shorter domestic trip as a test trip for a longer international trip.

So, my mom saw a good deal on direct flights to Austin. My dad’s family had lived there for several years after my dad graduated from high school and he hadn’t been back in over 30 years. They have lots of live music which I love. It’s warmer than Minnesota, which we all love. So, we planned a trip to Austin which was supposed to happen in mid-October but got postponed until mid-November because of COVID rates in Texas and because I was dealing with some non-COVID related health issues.

What worked well?

I’m going to have a couple additional posts after this one to talk more about what I did in Austin, what worked well, what maybe didn’t work so well. Starting off with…

TSA Cares

I don’t think this existed the last time I flew to Boston, but mom learned about TSA Cares in a recent news post. People with disability or accessibility needs can contact TSA Cares and get assistance for getting through TSA Security. In Minnesota, the TSA Cares people contacted my dad the day before I flew. We texted the contact person before we arrived at the airport and the TSA guy met us at the door where we were dropped off. He escorted us through getting our baggage checked including my extra large 96-pound bag that held my toilet chair and other medical equipment. He then escorted us to the front of the line for the Security Check and got us through security very smoothly.

In Austin, the security person met us after we had gone through the airline check-in and checked our baggage. He escorted my parents and me through the security check, also. It was really nice in Minnesota to have been met at the door, but that all depends on how TSA is staffed, so we were flying back on a busier travel day, so Austin may not have had someone who could help us from the moment we entered the airport.

In addition to contacting your airline to confirm accessibility needs, I do recommend that to contact TSA Cares at least 3 days ahead of your flight if you’re flying in the U.S. and have accessibility needs.

Check back for my next post on other things that worked well and maybe not so well from my trip to Austin, Texas! In the meantime, subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss this Austinian post. See y’all sometime next week.

Outside on sidewalk, big green bag, luggage, smiling mom and 23-year old Justin seated in wheelchair
Mom and me with our luggage. Big green bag is for my toilet/shower chair and medical equipment.

1 thought on “The Trip”

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