I’d like to start the conversation about accessible ♿️ travel. If any airline is going to take this on, I know it’s going to be someone as innovative as an airline such as Virgin 🙌🏻.
This is my daughter Chiara who turns 5 next month, she’s awesome! Yet she is unable to sit independently or walk and requires a lot of extra care, and requires a wheelchair full time.
On a recent flight, we brought a portable seat that allows her to sit independently. Without this type of seat support, she could not remain upright and comfortable.
We placed her in the seat and together as a family we happily awaited take off .
Check out that smile she was loving it. We as her parents were happy to see her supported, happy and independent. Hands free time to read the Virgin inflight magazine yay!
However, staff politely asked us to take her out of the seat (designed to support children with disabilities) before take off. We explained her medical and physical situation, however due to compliance regulations the seat was not approved and she had to be removed from it. We understood that compliance was an issue and the staff were again very friendly.
So the adaptive seat we brought remained empty for the entire flight, aside from a furry friend 😅 see at end of blog. On the return flight however, the staff supplied a harness that did not support my daughter’s body, her head flopped forward and there was no lateral supports to hold her upright. (Refer to photo with her head flopped forward and due to discomfort, she wasn’t able to manage this harness for long).
Lucky ☘️she has an awesome Dad who agreed to hold her the entire flight and use the attached seat belt supplied. However, it’s not easy for families caring for a child who has such high physical needs. It’s tiring, exhausting and every bit of help can make an extraordinary difference to families all over the word . Let me tell you there’s a lot of us! The constant lifting, carrying and uncertainty as to how the staff will support or react adds to the challenges and worry.
I know many families in similar situations who have struggled with the lack of support for our kids with physical disabilities. My dream would be able to have wheelchair access on planes for all people that needed it, children or adults.
The major issues are:
- There is no consistent understanding of what adaptive is or isn’t allowed on the planes.
- Different carriers have different rules, which also change depending on the staff who are on board.
- The huge uncertainty of what support will be received.
- The struggle for a parent or carer, to either hold their child for the duration of the flight.
- The management of the child’s secondary side effects, strong muscle tone, seizure safety, air supply.
- Additional needs through feeding pump, suction machine, specialised food.
- The need for postural support to ensure safe feeding, and subsequent digesting.
- Limited ability to take ‘extra’ equipment, the additional costs associated with that.
- Travelling with a car seat, on top of all the other necessary equipment may not always be an option, let alone be approved. We have the Carrot Car Seat and it’s been professionally fitted and bolted into the car, not to mention it has a 10kg swivel base. So the entire seat is approx 20kg! This poses more questions, how would you get it removed from the car, when it’s been bolted into the ISO fox points by a professional? If it’s in use in the car, who would come to the airport to remove the seat (when the swivel base has been fitted, it’s not as easy as simply unclipping or releasing fixtures). In my case, I’ve had two hernia repairs, so lifting isn’t an option and can I just remind you – I am already pushing a wheelchair?
- Why carry another huge, heavy and awkward piece of equipment when the portable seat we had, was light in weight and extremely easy and portable. Please remember, we already have a beautiful child who is unable to move independently – so as you can imagine every little help is a huge help.
- How to manage all this equipment through the airport and at the destination? Travelling with a wheelchair is already a challenge, let alone adding more heavy equipment.
- The stress of travelling with a child with additional needs is already in and of itself a stressful situation, the uncertainly and random and differing support adds to the stress.
- Happier Marriages/Partnerships! Yes I’m going to go there! It’s tense between a couple who are relying on each other to co-support, lift, feed, hold, wheel their child with additional needs from the moment they leave their house, to transportation to the airport, onto the plane and at the other end. It seems counter-intuitive to what a holiday is all about.
- Parents buffer so much that could be supported by the airlines, if the correct seating and wheelchair support was available.
- Travel should be a time of celebration, of EXPANDING ACCESS to the world as a family despite the challenges.
- In some cases, parents/carers need to offer 24 hour care, so just imagine how exhausted some of these parents are.
We as a community need a clear cut certainly of what is allowed and required in order to travel with our child with a wheelchair. For example, as travellers we already know that we need to arrive at the airport one hour before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Imagine this same type of information delivered to our community, clear cut and across the board, so we know with certainty what to expect for travelling with our children who are unable to sit.
Many parents don’t even consider the option to fly, because their child won’t be able to manage the seating options. But wouldn’t it be great if more families got access to the world and the incredible adventures that travelling brings?
There would be a lot more children with additional needs and their families enjoying what this amazing world has to offer. I’m sure there is a solution that will open new doors for so many in need. Let’s create social change together, so they can travel in their wheelchair or safe and approved adaptive seating for all. It would literally open up the world to so many families raising children with additional needs.
** this is not a sponsored post.