In June of 2006, my soldier - Brian - was wounded by an IED while serving in Iraq. He sustained life-altering injuries, leaving his feet and portions of both legs behind when he came home. He became what they call a trans-tibial amputee, a double-below-knee, a dual-BK. I set eyes on him for the first time - all those long months on webcams nonwithstanding - in July, right after he got his first pair of prosthetics.
By September I was planning.
In October I quit my job, packed up my life, and moved cross-country to help him recover. I lived with him in an army medical center for a full year. I was there for surgeries and infections, antibiotics and pyschologists, red tape and news of fallen brothers.
Two years to the day after the explosion that changed his life, we married. Our anniversary is his Alive Day. We waited long enough for him to be able to walk down the aisle.
That was a year and a half ago. In the 3+ years we've been together, I've gotten a crash course in the ADA. We have a specially adapted home for him, my friends and family all seem to have made little adjustments so that he has an easier time when we come visit, his mother had an accessible bathroom built in her basement. There are a million things you never think of when everything in your body works the way nature intended... something as simple as stepping into the shower is never the same once you've seen it thru his eyes.
Our downfall seems to be our love of travel. Having a house adapted to your needs spoils you, in a sense, so that you forget how much of a PITA it is to not have a shower bench or a wide enough doorway. Some places have surprised me, others shocked me, but the only universal truth has seemed to be that you just don't know whether someplace that claims accessibility actually is accessible until you roll in and look.
I've unabashedly walked into men's rooms to make sure Brian's wheelchair will fit inside, to make sure there's a stall with a door on it and a doorway wide enough for him to make it through without scraping the skin off his knuckles. I've called out managers and I've written nasty letters. But I still won't know whether someplace will work for us until I've walked into it.
Which is why I'm writing this blog. I've decided to start collecting all my stories and publish them for others to see. That way, some one else with a penchant for travel and the disadvantage of wheels instead of feet on the ground might get some little head's up.
If you've got stories to share, let me know! I can't (and won't!) spend my life visiting hotels just for writing material... but I have a lot of friends with similar disadvantages, and maybe if we band together we can help each other out. I don't intend to pull any punches - I will praise where its earned and burn where its deserved. If I say something about your hotel or restaurant, don't get mad at me - fix the problem. I'm just telling it like I see it.