One would favor how many countries seem to be somewhat more conscious about tourists with mobile disabilities. They treat them as invalids – not valid. But they try. Overcoming mobile disability travel challenges are difficult both in the USA and internationally. It is virtually impossible for those without disabilities to conceive all the details people with wheels, crutches, and canes require to smoothly go from point-a to point-b. Current statistics show about 10% of the world’s population (650 million) have some form of disability.
Part of the statistical problem is that most people who need mobility aids don’t want to use them. It took me years to realize I needed a cane to walk better. Another 6 months that I needed AFO braces. Based on data from the 2002 US Census Bureau, 96 percent of people who live with an illness live with an invisible one, and 73 percent of people who live with a severe disability do not use devices like a wheelchair. So, counting invisible mobile disability and mental disability, about 15 percent of the world’s population — some 785 million people — has a significant physical or mental disability, including about 5 percent of children, based on the World Health Organization in 2011.
Mobility handicaps meant no challenges if you sat comfortably on the inside looking out. For most of history that seemed fine. Mobile disability travel challenges happen when you want to go somewhere. Devices and scooters help you move. Traveling between points and having the comforts and necessities you need require considerable study. Yes, when going to supermarkets to parks or on vacations, even visiting friends and relatives, mobile disabilities uncover some hidden travel challenges.
It can be very disconcerting for those with mobile disabilities to navigate into certain stores, houses of worship, and other public spaces. There are disability travel challenges whether you are young and old. United States, over the past 30 years, has been implementing standards to help enable those that require mobility aid. Passed by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities. Of course many buildings, subways, and other areas built prior to 1990 still have poor access for disability travel.
I use AFO braces as a mobile compromise for walking. To others I am walking relatively well, albeit slowly. What many do not know is, while I can walk on smoothly paved paths, I really can’t walk stairs, on grass, on sand, cobblestones, and rough surfaces. Somehow, when it comes to mobile disability travel challenges, manufacturers are designing more mobility scooters for travel.
Thinking of accessibility, parts of New York City are working towards removal of 19th-century cobblestones so that disability travel on those streets could be more accessible. This is causing many debates from travelers and local residents who see the removal as damage to historic infrastructures. In countries all around the world, different cobblestones have remained for centuries. Some countries replace old cobblestones with new ones.
For people using AFO braces, canes, and walkers, these surfaces may be impossible to travel. For those in wheelchairs or mobility scooters, this can be a very bumpy ride, even a dangerous ride if the scooter isn’t stable. For tourists, these rough surfaces make public plazas and churches historically attractive. After all, when these were built, disabled people weren’t supposed to travel anywhere.
Many of these countries barely have accessible accessories (high toilets with bars or shower bars) available in hotel rooms. There aren’t any ADA standards there. They barely have sidewalks and most still maintain bricked streets.
Rough and rugged US National Parks also provide facilities for wheelchairs and some trails that accept human-pushed wheelchairs. They are not accommodating for powered mobility scooters and virtually impossible for AFO-brace users.
First introduced in the 1960’s, Mobility scooters offer freedom and independence, leading to improved quality of life for a growing number of people. Manufacturers are continually investing in research and development to enhance existing products and introduce new models and features. Even electric car research has trickled to mobility scooters by introducing longer-lasting and lighter lithium-ion batteries to extend power and range abilities. More companies are introducing folding scooters that may be stored in the boot of many cars. Some of these are called travel scooters. But are they easy to fold and unfold?
What’s Required to Transport a Typical Travel Mobility Scooter:
Remove the seat by lifting it off of the scooter
Remove the battery pack by lifting it off of the scooter
Undo the retaining clips that connect the front and rear halves of the scooter, separating the frame into 2 compact pieces
Fold the tiller (steering column)
Place the scooter component into vehicle
Basically, any person with the need for convenient disability travel would require a competent aid. There are new design revolutions that simplify the processes, if you aren’t very tall or big.
Yet the largest challenges that disability travel encounter are the many roads, hotels, dining areas, and recreation areas that define accessible within narrow definitions. For example, Disney parks are accessible – bathrooms and paths. The rides and shows are probably not. Some restaurants there may have some stairs.
I have spoken to people using mobility scooters and their realities are they wish they could use AFO or K-AFO instead. Ultimately, all these disability travel accessories are compromises and out-of-the-box compromises. They allow mobility challenged individuals some control to move around environments.
Many technologies are being explored to allow people with mobility challenges more independence. Some scooters have elevating seats so you can have eye-contact with people. There are also more heavy-duty models with solid suspensions to tackle rough and rugged terrains, while remaining comfortable and easy to maneuver. Advances in battery technology mean you can now cover substantial distances on a single charge too, offering greater freedom. In deed, greater hope exists for overcoming disability travel challenges. The world wasn’t really designed for us.
Among all the challenges that people with motion disabilities encounter is that handicap accessible usually does not follow ADA standards. People without these challenges, as in many things, can only view things through their constructions of reality. After accidents, they might be sharing your perspectives. They get better but you don’t. Thankfully physiatrists, orthodists, and manufacturers strive for better mobility devices to give those with disability travel challenges better solutions that promote movement.
As far as international traveling, much care and attention is still required. On an AFO, I found it impossible. Some people with scooters find it challenging. We, unfortunately, can’t expect the world to adapt to our conditions. Thankfully, in the USA, the Congress passed the ADA act. Since passing that act, people with all forms of disabilities may get accessibility options that were never considered before.
In the aging baby-boomer generation, deeper studies isolate issues of disability as a stigma. Having a disability is seen as socially inferior. There is a sense of discrimination toward those with physical or mental disabilities. Some disabled people try to adapt to the world around them, if they can. As one of the most overlooked minorities of the world, disabilities are by ways of genetics and environment. No one wants a disability.
When travelling to other countries, the stigma is probably unintentional. Mobile disability travel challenges are to try to overcome the many staircases, cobblestones, and other features that make areas tourist destinations. From bathrooms, hotel rooms, and many public spaces, one actually sees those features that are not adaptable.
For fear of falling or injury, while physically disabled people do attempt to adapt toward experiencing many of the world’s wonders, those remain from a chair staring at images on a tablet or computer. Mobile disability travel challenges will likely remain one of those perilous things that require extensive research for superior disability awareness.