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China in a wheelchair

travelclown

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  • Added on: June 13th, 2007
Hi everyone,
For 3 months now I've been in a wheelchair. I have the progressive form of M.S. and so it looks like things are going to stay that way.

I've always been a backpacker. For years I've travelled with a cane and a little portable camping seat. On August 1st, I'll be leaving for China. My first trip in a wheelchair. I'll admit that I am nervous... But I know things will be fine.

I'm curious though,
How many of us on BNA are in a wheelchair? Or handicapped in any other way?
Do you travel independently?
Have you been to China?
Any tricks or recommendations?

EVEN FOR ABLE-BODIED BNA MEMBERS Please read the Have you been to China thread in the Asia forum and answer my questions...

Thanks! Smile

travelclown

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  • Added on: August 21st, 2007
O.K. So I guess I'm the only Wheelchair-bound-active-member of BNA(or else the other ones just didn't feel like answering me... Big Grin)

But to those interested, China is not(as I expected it!) a wheelchair-friendly place. But make no mistake about it; it is possible to go regardless of your walking abilities...

My wheelchair did attract a few stares (quite a few actually...) and a few misadventures (I was used to that anyways...)but who cares! With the help of some very nice chinese (one of whom I met on BNA!) and some foreigners, I got to see all that I wanted, and did so on a relatively low budget.
I even got to ride my wheels on the Great Wall!

And so if you're disabled in anyway, don't be afraid of traveling independently. It might require a little more preparation than it would for a healthy person, but it`s well worth it... Wink

David C.

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  • Added on: October 3rd, 2007
No - you're not the only one. Although I can walk a little with canes, my traveling mode is in a wheelchair.

My China experience to date has been limited to brief trips to Macau and Shenzhen - both of which went well given that I did pick and choose what to attempt.

Next July I'm going to travel to see the solar eclipse on a Beijing-Xi'an-Jiayuguan-Dunhuang-Hami-Urumqi itinerary.

My wife did a similar trip this year and worries about the train stations after Xi'an. It would be easier to fly, but I am attracted to the chance to see some of the countryside and this will be a small group tour on a leased train.

Anyway, I'm willing to try this, but would reconsider if it looks unwise. My current approach is to engage help on a city by city basis.

The photos near the end of the link below show a wheelchair carry technique I had never seen before. I would prefer to arrange assistance in advance rather than the ad-hoc approach described here:

http://myyangtzerivercruise.blogspot.com/

travelclown

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  • Added on: October 4th, 2007
Hi there! Wow! I was no longer expecting an answer! And I see this is your first post so welcome to BNA.

My domestic travels in china have been done by plane simply because no one there seemed to think that it would be possible for me to travel by train. Few people wrote back and the ones who did said that there was a lot of pushing and shoving when going in and out and that there was no way I'd be able to go to the bathroom.
Since this was my first wheelchair trip I thought I'd take the easy road. But good for you if you have the guts to try!

As for the wheelchair carry technique you refered to, I've never seen it either. Although I hadn't arranged for assitance ahead of time (I did when I could but most of the time I wouldn't have known how to anyways...) I always found help when I needed it.

For example when I approached the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, I was offered to be carried by Chinese men in exchange for a hefty sum. A chinese girl who was with us at the time tought it was outrageous how they would try to take advantage of me. So we decided to try on our own. Looking back we never would have made it! Luckily, two Americans simply offered to carry me up. One of them had a handicapped nephew and he decided that I just had to get a great view! Perhaps I was just lucky (or maybe being a young woman helps...)but it was always like that.

I see on your profile that you've traveled quite a bit. I would be curious to know if you've been to all of those places with your wheelchair and how things went, if you've gone on organized trips or if you went there on your own.

I'm hoping to hear from you... Smile

David C.

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  • Added on: October 8th, 2007
"I see on your profile that you've traveled quite a bit. I would be curious to know if you've been to all of those places with your wheelchair and how things went, if you've gone on organized trips or if you went there on your own."

I'm also an MS patient; my walking is now reduced to less than 50 meters using forearm crutches. Traveling with wheelchair and crutches is awkward, so I usually just use a single folding cane to let me on and off a plane without using an aisle chair - lots of things to hold on to!

I once saw a set of forearm crutches that folded up into three sections - small enough to fit checked luggage. If anyone knows a source - please let me know.

Much of my travel is for business, but I try to add in extra time to play tourist. Folding chair in taxi trunk and try to select sites without steps - that works fairly well.

Shenzhen was a tourist add-on to a business trip to Hong Kong. I paid for an expensive mini-van transfer to the hotel in Shenzhen because all the border crossings seemed to involve crowds and steps. Not sure if the hotel bus would have worked - I was worried about having to get off and handle my bag. The crossing actually had a wheelchair accessible WC sign and some ramps. I never left the minivan, so would welcome reports from others.

Coming back, I did the Shekou-HKIA ferry. Not clear it would work, so I left enough time to abort and go back via bus. In practice, the check-in people were surprised, but indicated they could accommodate me. Normal departure is up a flight of stairs, but they arranged for someone to walk my documents through and rolled me on the ground floor through what is normally the arrival route. Ramp to the ferry was OK and the usual watertight doors to negotiate. On the HKIA end the ramp was too narrow for the chair. I had to walk up the short ramp, but that meant I had sturdy handholds on both sides. They might well have carried me - I didn't need to find out.

Bottom line - it worked, everyone was helpful - but no assurance in advance.

Libya for the eclipse was an organized tour. First a cruise ship with accessible cabin and than various coach excursions. I can still get on and off a coach OK and the the chair goes underneath. I passed on the ports with lighter transfers. I had help from several friends on the desert (hard) sand.

China in 2008 will also be a (small) group tour. I wouldn't think of the train there if the tour hadn't chartered the entire train.

Yes, I'm new to BNA, so at the time you originally posted I shouldn't be counted. Thanks for the welocme.

travelclown

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  • Added on: October 10th, 2007
Thank you for taking the time to answer and let me know how your train travels in China go! Good luck! Wink

David C.

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  • Added on: October 28th, 2007
To answer my own question, I found folding, forearm crutches at www.walkeasy.com.
They haven't arrived yet, but my favorite crutches are Walkeasy and I'm optimistic. They fold to 20.5" (is that 52 cm.?) so should go in checked bag easily.

Cheers1

luciinthesky

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Location: Chicago, Illinois

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  • Added on: October 29th, 2007
quote:
Originally posted by travelclown:
I'm curious though,
How many of us on BNA are in a wheelchair? Or handicapped in any other way?
Do you travel independently?
Have you been to China?
Any tricks or recommendations?



Hi travelclown,

I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease, which means that I am slowly losing my vision. My central vision is still good, but I don't have peripheral vision or night vision, and I do not know how long I will retain my central vision. I started using a cane 8 months ago for travel, which has been very helpful.

I have traveled independently within the US, but the international trips I've taken so far (Peru and places in Europe) have been with people who know me and my limits and can help me out when I need it, usually in places that are dark, crowded, or have uneven ground.

It is very encouraging to read about other people with handicaps traveling independently. I'm glad to hear your trip to China went well. Any thoughts on where your next adventure will take you?

cheers,
Luci

travelclown

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  • Added on: October 31st, 2007
Well hello Luciinthessky (did I spell that correctly? Wink)
Welcome to BNA!

It makes me really happy to read your e-mail, but sad about your condition. I never heard of it. Please tell me more...(but only if you are comfortable doing so)

I STRONGLY encourage you to do everything you can to realize your dreams and travel if that's what you want.
After my diagnosis,about 9 years ago, I thought that my life was over. I couldn't walk straight, no long distances, bladder problems... And so NO MORE DREAMS FOR ME... Frown I would NEVER get to see the world, have a family of my own (Who would want to go out with me anyways...), etc.
And then about a year later I decided to take a chance. For springbreak (I was a teacher...)I decided to TRY to go to Rome. I had one week to see the Colisseum. That was my only goal and it would have made my trip worth it. But after only a few hours in Rome, I found myself sitting right in front of it, beaming from ear to ear, and crying at the same time. It just hit me right there and then:MY LIFE WASN'T OVER! Only my life as I knew it.... when I got back, I decided that every extra penny I would make was going to make me see the world. I became a real Scrooge (no more restaurants and movies, no new clothes, foods on special...) but I have no regrets because I did get to see a lot...

As you've read I am now in a wheelchair and as my life changes, so does my view of the world.
Make sure you live your life without regrets. Think about what you want,then see and do all that you can while you can.
But know that somewhere in this world there must be a visually impaired person traveling with a friend, experiencing countries in her own way (food, smells, sounds, people's kindness....).

On that note, I'll let Dr. Phil out of my body (Sorry!Big Grin ) and tell you that I really don't know where my next adventure will be. My boyfriend who's never been out of the country (except for Florida...) has been talking about Poland for next year. But we just bought a house and so I think it would be wiser to just wait and see what our financial situation will be by then.

In the meantime, I hang around on BNA and DREAM...

Later! Smile



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