In my work with Quantum, I’m always traveling to different places to give speeches or attend events. A lot of the times, I can drive to these events. Yes, believe it or not, I can drive a car! It’s great that I can maintain my independence.
When I first became a triple amputee, I had to learn how to do things in a different way. Having my iLevel® Power Chair helped me a lot with everyday stuff. Yet, I can’t drive my power chair to an event that is four hours away! So, I needed an adaptive vehicle, and everyone was telling me I needed to get an accessible van. I didn’t want that!
There are a lot of great vehicles out there that are accessible for people who use wheelchairs. I drive a Ford Explorer with a built-in ramp. This allows me to take my Edge 3 with 4.5 mph iLevel® on the road with me when I speak at an event. My adaptive vehicle is slightly different from a regular car. Instead of your typical gas and brake pedal, I use a lever that is near the steering wheel. I pull it down when I need gas and push it for when I need to brake. And when you’re driving in the city, with traffic piling up, it’s good to be quick with the brake!
Occasionally I am asked to participate in an event that I can’t drive to, so I fly. I know for some people, flying can be a pretty stressful experience. I mean, you’re in a tiny plane with lots of other people, who are all just trying to get to where they need to go! For people with disabilities, flying can be even more challenging and stressful. Sometimes, people who work for the airport don’t seem very helpful. And a lot of bad stuff can happen to a person’s power wheelchair. I’ve seen it all – broken joysticks, smashed controller screens, you name it.
With the FAA Reauthorization of 2018, I am confident that this new law will help improve the experience of flying for a lot of power wheelchair users, including me. This law requires that every air carrier has a bill of rights for passengers with disabilities. Plus, there are penalties to airlines when a staff member harms a disabled passenger or their mobility device.
If you planning to fly with your power chair, one of the most important things you can do is strip your chair of the important stuff, like accessories. Also, if you are able to speak to a staff member who is going to be handling your power chair, you should explain to them how to handle it. Don’t assume they know what to do. You can also attach instructions to your power wheelchair.
Finally, the most important thing you can do: when things go wrong, just adapt and overcome. No matter how you travel, stuff happens. It’s just the way it is. Try to have a backup plan and numbers of people to contact in case you need help.
About Bryan Anderson: Bryan grew up and resides in Illinois. Injured by an IED in October 2005, Bryan is one of the few triple amputees to survive his injuries in Iraq. He is an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation and a spokesperson for USA Cares, which is focused on assisting post 9-11 veterans. Click here to learn more about Bryan.