Traveling with a Disability

Guest Blogger, Chris Wistrom, Independent Living Specialist

I just returned from an Alaskan vacation; I had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t my first trip there.  Alaska is the 49th state of the USA, purchased from Russia in 1867.   Ten years ago my sister and I boarded ship and were swept away with the scenery and history of this vast frontier.  We cruised what is called “the Inner Passage” – visiting the port cities of Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria in British Columbia.  During that trip, I do not recall seeing even one traveler with a visible disability.  I found things have changed on this trip!

This time we took the same route through the Inner Passage.   I noted that there were many people aboard ship using wheelchairs.  I am gratified to see that the trip is not limited to those without mobility disabilities.  I also found they were equipped for assisting people with disabilities into the pool or whirlpool.  That’s great!  Basking in the whirlpool in gloriously warm water while on deck watching for whales is one of my favorite memories.  The icy wind blows through your hair, but the hot water is an absolute delight!  Everyone should have that opportunity!  

I noted that the ship made quite an effort to ensure the safety and comfort of the passengers with disabilities.  Ramps had been installed in the halls and the pathways had been restructured so passengers could get to their staterooms without having to navigate sharp bends in the hall or stairs.  Many of the passages had been made wider so people could easily travel both directions without running into one another.  Perhaps the best thing of all is that the dining areas now accommodate people with disabilities.  If you’ve ever eaten on shipboard, you’ll understand why they say the average person gains 4 pounds per day on a cruise!

Cruising to Alaska was a wonderful adventure, and having the ship make minor accommodations so that people with disabilities can enjoy the trip too made it more of a delightful experience.  After all, those accommodations made it easier for me to get around too…and, after all, I was 10 years older this time too!