During the Flight
After learning about the Air Carrier Access Act, transferring, and ways to minimize wheelchair damage, the next high priority question is what if I need to use the bathroom while on the airplane? This is one area that has not been very well addressed by airlines and there is room for great improvement.
Corey Lee, a seasoned traveler with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, has some practical advice about using the bathroom and some workarounds:
- You can request to have an onboard chair kept on your flight. The onboard chair is similar to the aisle chair that’s used when getting on the plane. However, the airline crew cannot help you with transferring into the onboard chair or in the restroom. If you’re unable to transfer yourself in and out of the chair, you will need a companion to assist with that. If you are okay with transferring in and out of the onboard chair, you can get to the restroom with it, but keep in mind that the lavatories are quite small on flights, which could make transferring to the toilet difficult.
- If the onboard chair won’t work for you, you could use a condom catheter or a TravelJohn or TravelJane disposable urinal. Covering with a blanket and using a disposable urinal from the plane seat is what many wheelchair users do. It’s the sad reality of air travel for wheelchair users.
- You could also alter your diet before flying to hopefully avoid needing to use the restroom during flight. Try to avoid anything that could possibly upset your stomach for a couple of days before flying. Also, I cut off liquids a few hours before the flight and then drink as much water as possible once I finally arrive at my destination.
Thank you to the author of this webpage, Jacob Gapko. Jacob is 45 years old with Duchenne. He uses a power wheelchair and non-invasive ventilation 24/7. He has a BS, an MLIS, and is a specialist. Jacob has an incredible passion for helping our DMD community. He can be reached at Jacob.Gapko@FamilyFriendsAndDuchenne.org