Image of Andraea seated in her Quantum Rehab power wheelchair, she is wearing a white dress and a sun hat in front of a sunny stoop in Italy.

Italian Adventures as a Power Wheelchair User: Part 1

I’m writing this post having just returned from the most epic birthday/wedding adventure! In
celebration of my milestone 40th birthday and a surprise elopement, my now wife and I took an
extended vacation to Italy. This was a trip we’d been planning and saving for almost a year, so it was incredible to finally experience it. While I could share of so many adventures, of course traveling in a power wheelchair to another country meant lots of planning and flexibility.

Here are a few of my primary takeaways from international travel as a power chair user:

  • Call airlines far ahead of time. We learned very quickly that international flights must plan ahead to have a device as large as a power chair. Many airlines will have paperwork for you to complete prior to your departure date, and may even require you to attach forms to your chair. This means knowing the dimensions of your mobility device, including weight, width, and height. Also knowing your battery type (wet or dry cell) is very important. We almost were denied access on our return flight because this information was not input correctly, so checking and double-checking all of this is critical.

  • Work with a disability-centered travel agency. Between unfamiliarity with the country and
    language barriers, having travel agencies manage everything from our transportation to tours to hotel accommodations was likely the best move we could’ve made for this trip. Overall, it eliminated so much hassle and even was beneficial during the trip to have them handle any issues that arose. I’d highly recommend Rome and Italy and Altogether Travel if you’re headed to Europe/Italy.

  • Bring a portable ramp. While Italy is globally recognized as a very accessible country, in comparison to access features in the US, it has a ways to go. Namely, most shops and even many restaurants have at least one large step to enter. One way That we remedied this issue was to carry a portable, 3-foot folding ramp with us. While it may seem cumbersome, we found one with a carrying case that hung beautifully on the back of my #4Front2. With the ramp, there was honestly no building we were unable to enter.

I don’t believe in saying any experience is once in a lifetime. To me, it implies that I’m never going to have the opportunity to do something again. So, while I will say that my recent excursion across Italy was definitely something I plan to do again, it was an absolutely unforgettable experience that I know will be hard to top in the future.

In my next post I’ll share about the cities we visited and tips for adventuring through them.

Written by: Andraea Lavant