Thrifty Traveler, Journey of Trying Something New, SCI Style part. 3

Edited by: Chris Bernard

New York! New York! What a wonderful land … I sang this song over and over again as I planned my first vacation after my accident 10 years prior. Thanks to my friends Amy and Dave getting married in New York I finally had the opportunity to take the leap of vacationing far, far away and without the security net of my family being nearby.
As a person with a high-level spinal cord injury, with all the needs of equipment, transportation, caregiver and accessibility in a foreign land, I knew this trip had to be thought out carefully and planned out perfectly. This was also my chance to show my family and friends that I can be independent.

Vacation Planning
I started planning in September of 2011 for my friend’s wedding in April of 2012. I created a list for my perfect vacation in New York as if I was still the old me, from before my accident; then I added all that I require now as the new spinal cord injured me, such as bringing supplies, an aide, commode, etc. I then looked at my bank account and said, “Uh oh!”
Still determined to do this on my own, I started to cross items off my list to make things work …. After I crossed off more than half of the list, seeing the black smudges all over the pages, my mood was as black as the ink and it seemed like my first trip to prove my independence was looking as gloomy as the dark sky before a storm.

After a few days of struggling with the idea of cancelling the vacation, I came up with a bright idea … I would combine the wishes of the old me with the reality of the new me and have my vacation, thriftily! Determined and eager, I started planning again for my now newly-revised-perfect vacation.

Thrift Planning
After determining my wishes and needs, I started to look at cost. My bank account did not like me very much after I figured out how much the trip would cost with traveling at a decent time and good hotel, trying new food and sightseeing for my aide and me. That’s when the Chinese/thrifty side of me came out like a superhero to save the day. She started help me to figure out the thrifty way to make my dream vacation come true. I started saving for this trip on Sept. 18th and became one of the cheapest Chinese people alive.

Flight
I was watching for seat sales with laser vision and after 3 months, I managed to purchase 2 tickets to New York for $300 less per person, free transport of medical bags/equipment we also packed carry-on backpacks …. The only catch was, the flight was at 6:30AM.

Living Arrangement
Hotels are expensive in New York. When I looked, it would have cost over $1200, plus hotel fees and taxes to stay for 8 nights (and that was the cheapest and somewhat accessible rooms). I posted a question on a forum at Carecure (Carecure.org) and asked other individuals in wheelchairs how they overcame this difficulty, and I received many useful tips. I was able to find a few wheelchair-accessible rooms for rent by New Yorkers using airbnb (airbnb.com). I finally booked 1 room from a woman who had great reviews from others and the bathroom size seemed bigger, although it didn’t have a wheel-in shower. Still, I was able to save more than $600.

Transportation
Taxis are expensive in New York if you are known as a tourist, and the few wheelchair taxis must be booked in advance. Since I strategically booked my residence in Brooklyn, which is in between Manhattan where I want to visit and Long Island where I was going for the wedding, this cut down our cost for transportation by quite a bit. We purchased 2 weekly transit passes for $60 in total, giving us unlimited access to the buses and subways for 7 full days. (Due to a misunderstanding, we actually only needed to purchase one ticket, because aides ride for free) I also downloaded a free iPhone application called NYCway; it comes with maps of the subway stations and locations of all wheelchair-accessible sites.

Food
There are way too many food places to eat in New York, at least 4 restaurants on every block if not more. Since I was living in a loft with a kitchen, my aide and I were able to cook some meals and save money on food. Since my goal was to visit New York, I planned a strict budget of $100 hotdogs fund and $400 meal fund. I actually spent in total: $60 for groceries which covered breakfast and 4 dinners, and $40 on street vender food. The only regret was not being able to try the famous Japadogs and lobster dogs.

Equipment
In order to make things easier for my trip and transportation, I decided not to take my commode chair. I created a packing list with carefully calculated numbers of everything to bring on my trip, even down to the number of Q-tips. I changed my routines and had to come up with a new way to do my bathroom routines in my chair. I like a good challenge, and I was tested on of the sightseeing days. However, the strict packing and not bring my commode chair saved us time, energy and money for the trip.
Now everything was planned perfectly, yet still with the expectation of something will not go as planned, “New York! New York, here I come!”

And what a wonderful experience it was along with some wonderful hiccups! We visited most of the usual tourist attractions, the most memorable of which was the MoMa (museum of Modern Art). Even when we got lost, we found so many helpful New Yorkers eager to help 2 tourists and, best of all, I got to watch off-Broadway show: Spider-Man, the musical.

Altogether, including covering the cost of my aid/traveling companion, our total budget and expenses came to less than $3500 for my 9-day New York dream vacation …. So, being in a wheelchair should not hinder your desire to see the world. What are you waiting for? With proper planning and thrifty thinking, you too can be singing … New York! New York!

The Ramp

Whether it’s making love or the act of sexual pleasure, both are important needs in our lives… and yes, that includes persons with physical disabilities.  You may be surprised to hear that persons with physical disabilities do have sex, and sometimes as much as the able-bodied population.  However, sexuality is almost a taboo within the disability community and an unknown to the rest of the world. Continue reading

Project Walk

firststepsHooray! Project Walk will soon be in Canada!

By Kuen Tang, B.Ed

Great news to Canadians living with SCI: Project Walk has teamed up with First Steps Spinal Cord Injury Wellness Center in Regina, Saskatchewan to bring Project Walk to Canada.

What is Project Walk?

Project Walk is an intense exercise-based recovery center specifically designed for individuals with spinal cord injuries. Understanding the uniqueness of each spinal cord injury affects the rate at which the individual recovers function. Project Walk creates programs that are specific for the individual, the injury level, and current rate of recovery. They focus on targeting the areas of the body most affected by the injury. Continue reading

MAGICWHEELS®

It’s always great to try new and exciting products that can better my life. My name is Kuen Tang and I’m a C6/7 quadriplegic. I am tired of using my power chair all the time. I’ve always wished that I would be able to push up ramps or hills all by myself, but sadly after 9 years of trying, I was not successful… that is until I trialed these Magic Wheels. Continue reading

The Crip Club Jumpers, journey of trying something new, SCI style… part 1

As I drive towards Spirit River, Alberta on a beautiful Friday morning, my heart is calm like the weather before a major storm, but my mind is racing 100 miles per hour, full of excitement.

I am a C 6/7 quadriplegic and I have always been afraid of heights, but I have “jumped” at the challenge that our Peer Event Coordinator, Brian, has given to me. All my friends think I am crazy, but, yes, I have agreed to go skydiving!

As I get closer and closer to Spirit River, my heart starts to race as fast as my mind … my excitement turns into determination … my fear turns into eagerness. Having my sister and my nieces on the journey with me really helps.

As I pull into the airport, I see a parked plane … and then it hits me …“I am about to face my biggest fear; I’m about to do something that I would not even do when I was able-bodied … I’M ABOUT TO JUMP OUT OF A PLANE AT 10,000 feet!” But there is no time to waste and no chance to back out; this is a once in a lifetime experience. I put on my best smile and bravely join the rest of my group, 5 guys with spinal cord injuries and all just as crazy as me. Thus, “the Crip Club Jumpers” are born.

Continue reading

Assistive Technology

Ironman (the comic book character) had a disabled heart; he created an arc reactor device to enable him to live.  Using this high tech pacemaker, Ironman was able to not only survive but achieve great accomplishments and help all of humanity.  Assistive devices come in many forms and shapes and help people of all abilities.

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is a generic term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. AT promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish or had great difficulty accomplishing. Continue reading

ACCSE

Winter, winter in Alberta especially, often creates hazard for people with mobility disabilities and feeling of isolation due to the inability to access out doors. We have a solution; the Canadian Paraplegic Association (AB) partnered with Cross Country Alberta, Ability Lodge Society (AALS), The Edmonton Nordic Ski Club, Alberta Sports, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation and community volunteers and created a program called Adapted Cross Country Skiing Edmonton (ACCSE). No matter what your ability level is or how much functions you have in your upper body, you can enjoy the Alberta winter again through cross country skiing.

Continue reading

A great lose for students with disabilities…

I met Marion 9 years ago when I decided to return to University of Alberta to finish my Education degree after my accident, which left me a C6/7 quadriplegic. I remember the first time I wheeled into Specialized Support & Disability Services (SSDS) at the Student Union building at the U of A, I was greeted by laughter from Marion Vosahlo and Pat Sears bouncing ideas off each other on how to help the students with disabilities. My fear and worries disappeared quickly at that moment because I met two very passionate people whom I had a feeling that would take good care of my educational needs. Pat Sears became my counselor then Joanne Yardley in my years at the University… all with very close support from Marion (whom I found out later was the founding Director of SSDS). When I became the first Quadriplegic female to earn an Elementary Education degree in 2006, Marion and SSDS was right there to cheer me on. I credit my success partly to the services provided to me by SSDS and wonderful supporters such as Marion, Pat, Joanne and many more because they took the stress of having a disability and took care of the “how to’s” such as adaptive equipment, exam accommodations, funding applications etc away and allowed me to focus on my education. I’m only 1 example of the many students with disabilities that have graduated the U of A due to the support from SSDS in the past 30 years… thanks to great leadership from passionate people and advocate such as Marion.

Marion Beate (Ati) Vosahlo, at the age of 64, lost battle to Lupus on March 24, 2011. Over 150 friends, colleagues and students attended the celebrate Marion’s life gathering at the University of Alberta Faculty Club on April 7th, 2011.