March 3, 2015 12:22 PM MST
As my OPMD symptoms slowly progress, things like visiting friends or family in homes with entry stairs and staircases within becomes more daunting. Sometimes I have to flat out decline; particularly when there are steps leading up to the home on the outside that have no handrails.
So the idea of traveling can be something that a person with OPMD puts out of their mind forever, thinking they will never be able to travel again. The concept of unknown steps within tourist attractions, much less to access accommodations can be really daunting; especially when you want to travel to historic buildings or ruins.
Don’t give up! There are several travel agencies, easily found online, that cater to travelers with disabilities. Whether you want to go on a trip with another group of disabled travelers and their companions or do your own thing – they can help!
While I haven’t had personal experience with more than one of these travel agencies, I can say that Accessible Journeys (http://www.disabilitytravel.com/ made a fantastic trip come true for my mother and I in 2005.
I wasn’t experiencing a lot of the symptoms of OPMD in 2005, but my mom was. She was no longer able to climb stairs, tired easily when walking and couldn’t use a shower that required stepping over the side of a bathtub.
We opted for a Mississippi River cruise on a luxurious cruise “boat” (they don’t call riverboats ‘ships’, no matter how big they are) called the American Queen. With most of our fellow passengers being about 50-70 years old, it was a relaxed, laid back experience and required no special wardrobe items. The boat was small enough that it felt more like being a guest in someone’s expansive and luxurious Victorian-era home; yet large enough that you could leave your cabin for the day and have more than enough to do to keep you from coming back until bedtime. The entertainment was first class, and Mom and I are both from New York City, so we had pretty high standards, lol.
We had handicap accessible vans pick us up from the airport and aides from the ship who helped the people in wheelchairs get onboard. We’d rented an electric scooter for my mother and it was waiting for her when we got onboard. It was small enough that she could ride it right into our accessible cabin at the end of the day.
The American Queen has elevators, and the scooter easily fit inside.
River cruises, by nature, allow for almost daily shore excursions to sites of interest. On the days that we partook, there was a large van with a hydraulic lift waiting for our group; they stayed with us all day.
On the days we did not have shore excursions there was a fantastic covered area in the bow with rocking chairs where you could watch the tugs and barges that we passed, small watercraft, fishermen and even the shore side homes in some areas.
The food was amazing.
There was a tour guide from the travel agency accompanying our group, and any time there was a question or arrangement to be made, they were right there for us.
My mom and I had an amazing experience together, and it was something I will never forget. My mom is gone now, and alas, I am beginning to experience the mobility challenges that she had due to OPMD. My husband and I are planning a trip to Scotland, but he doesn’t like the idea of a pre-set itinerary and traveling with a group. Not to despair; Accessible Journeys also offers independent accessible travel assistance.
We can rent a car and go wherever we want; Accessible Journeys will pre-arrange for handicap ground transfers, accessible accommodations and accessible vehicles (when needed) for visiting local attractions.
This is just my experience with one accessible-oriented travel agency; I’m sure there are others out there that are wonderful! We found them on the Internet, and the fact that their brick and mortar location was in the Philadelphia area and we were in Wisconsin made no difference, whatsoever.
So if you think that your traveling days are finished, think again - they’re not! While I know that there are places I won’t be able to visit on our Scotland trip (not a lot of 15th Century castles have been retro-fitted with accessible facilities, lol) the fact is that I can still travel without any worries about roadblocks that might be waiting for me.
Have you traveled since you developed OPMD symptoms? Please share if you have; it’s great to share experiences that other OPMD’ers might learn from.
March 5, 2015 9:20 PM MST
Really enjoyed your story about your trip with your mother ! And thanks for all the travel info ! Very encouraging!
March 6, 2015 7:01 AM MST
Thanks, jonana. If we plan a trip correctly (to avoid those blasted steps and stairways) there is no reason we can’t go anywhere in the world!