Traveling in a wheelchair is always an adventure. We went to Cape Town for the Easter holiday and it was exactly what my soul needed. It’s never an easy situation when traveling therefore, the planning starts early! Packing is extremely crucial because we have many specific things that I need like a winter bed sheet for turning and a wheelchair charger.
My parents left on Thursday morning as they drove the car down with my wheelchair and our luggage. I cannot fly in my usual wheelchair as it doesn’t fold and either way, we require an accessible car once there. We haven’t found any car hire places that offer adapted cars. From Thursday I was in our spare wheelchair, we bought this wheelchair specifically for traveling and emergency situations. It is extremely difficult to adapt to different chairs so I am a bit of a mess in the red wheelchair (yes, our chairs have names).
On Friday, I flew Safair from Lanseria airport with my sister and her boyfriend. My sister and her boyfriend are honestly amazing at looking after me and keeping me calm! I’m not good at not being in control and having to rely on people I don’t know for assistance. I’m also terrified of flying. My godparents drove us to the airport and we thought we had a comfortable 2 hours before our flight… Little did we know. We go to check in where it is this guy’s first encounter with a disabled passenger and he doesn’t know how this all works. Of course, I get asked if I can stand, then the lady chimes in and says I have to go alone on the assistance truck. My response was not a chance and this is for the pure fact that people often don’t know how to lift. She ensures us that they are trained professionals and there was no need to worry. Luckily Jade took over at this point because my patience was running out.
The next question got interesting when they asked what kind of batteries I have? We had even practiced folding the wheelchair the day before so we thought we would have no surprises. Anyway, they were lithium batteries, and then there was a look. “Do you know the size?” Again no not something we just know. The man who had been called to assist says they too big to fly with… Okay but the wheelchair doesn’t work without them! After a lot of back and forth, we decided that I have a wheelchair waiting in Cape Town so we will just make the wheelchair manual. (I don’t know what people are expected to do without a backup plan?) The airport then said that we couldn’t leave them at the airport but couldn’t take them with us. They eventually came back and let us leave them in lost and found. We got our tickets and headed to round 2.
My sister and her boyfriend each pushed and tried to cheer me up. We went through security where the lady spoke over my head and asked Jade if she could search me. I just laughed at this point. We then were finally going to get to the slow lounge for the lift to be out of order and no alternative. We got a drink (very needed!) and waited to board. We were first to let on the plane and as I couldn’t drive Jade came with us. First lift and the man grabs my shoulders, my arms fall straight through and Jades says please just let me lift her. It is extremely dangerous to lift someone when you don’t know what you are doing. We made it to our seats where I must say the flight attendant was amazing, friendly, and helpful. The flight was good and I only squealed when we landed. At Cape Town International Jade lifted again after repeatedly saying she cannot hold herself up, especially her head! I was so happy to get to the car and in my wheelchair. I completely understand that it is difficult to work in an airport and maintain security but there need to be better systems, more knowledge, and clearer communication. I appreciate everyone who tried to help.