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Figure in motorized wheelchair trying to get to where plane is taking off, but cannot get up the stairs

Accessibility Anxiety

It’s 3:50 am and I am wide awake. I’m freshly showered and dressed, sitting in my motorized wheelchair next to a suitcase and my favored big, red backpack strapped onto my chair. I’m working on breathing calmly as I watch my husband Richard finish tidying up before we leave on a trip.

Accessibility anxiety & travel complications

Although I hate getting up early, I will do it for an early flight to get a vacation started. We prefer taking early flights. It’s a holdover lesson from my father—if you fly early there’s less likely to be delays because the airports have just opened. As the day progresses, so do travel complications. Since traveling with a wheelchair is already complicated, I figure I should do anything possible to avoid other delays or problems.

But despite the fact we’re heading to a relaxing (yet busy) Caribbean cruise—I have anxiety. It’s a specific kind of anxiety. It’s when you rely on an accessible taxicab (already limited in number) to pick you up early in the morning and, if it doesn’t, you are screwed because there is no other way to the airport, which means you would miss your flight and potentially have an expensive trip ruined because a cruise ship doesn’t wait for you just because you need a wheelchair.

OK, so the name of my anxiety is too long. Let’s just cut to the chase and call it: accessibility anxiety.

The anxiety of wheelchair accessibility

Because of this anxiety and the many times it has come to fruition (case in point: when I was taking Richard to a medical procedure last summer and the accessible cab didn’t show, so I had to put him in a regular cab and take the bus to catch up with him), I actually ordered two accessible cabs from two different companies 20 minutes apart. I am hoping that one of them shows.

At 3:55 am, my anxiety gets the best of me and I call the first cab company. They are not scheduled to arrive until 4:15 am, but I cannot help myself and need to know if one is on route. I am delightfully surprised when the dispatcher says he will come in a few minutes. We practically high five in celebration! The accessible cab arrived early and we have no trouble getting to the airport. I cancel the second cab but am so happy I had one as a backup.

I wish that I could say these situations were uncommon, but they are not. Even though I am fortunate to have a good salary and money to spend, I cannot count on the accessibility being there when I need it. Cabs fail to show all the time. So much so, that I rarely book them because I don’t feel they are as dependable as public transit. When I reserve an accessible hotel room, I call to double check and my husband does the same. We limit ourselves to hotels that we feel reliably deliver on basic accessibility. Flying can also be hit and miss, resulting in costly damages to my wheelchair.

Limited wheelchair accessibility will not stop me

But I’m not going to give up living the life I want just because of accessibility anxiety. If I was going to let these issues stop me, I’d never leave the house!

Instead, I make more effort to get out and about. I want other people to see me and consider that the world should be accessible to me and other people with disabilities. Whatever chronic illness, disability, or issue, people of all abilities should be able to travel their community and beyond. Humans build the world and we have the choice to make it more accessible in construction and also attitude.

So I’ll grapple with my accessibility anxiety with the hope that one day it will no longer be necessary.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • aussiesusan
    8 months ago

    Hi Kelly – I’ve been reading your inspiring pieces for a while now – I live in Australia and constantly battle with my “ letting down the team “ thoughts – “ I’m a burden” and find that it’s always in MY head not my husbands or friends and family’s thoughts – ever – you go girl end enjoy yourself – n don’t sweat the small stuff – I actually fell out of my chair in the middle of Brisbane – people everywhere and decided as I was being uprighted by total strangers I was going to laugh at this – humiliation central then left the building – I live in the tropics near the Great Barrier Reef so I’m blessed with a near to perfect temp and scenery backyard but that doesn’t mean it’s the be all and end all of holidaying – it’s hard – not your own room – not your own anything – but the overriding thought must be – I am going to have fun – regardless – n do what you need to to get to that point – have a lovely holiday and all the best – Susan

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hi aussiesusan! Thanks for the kind words and support! I love your perspective and humor. 🙂 We gotta keep laughing even through the hard stuff. Thanks for the well wishes! Great to have a buddy in Australia! 🙂 Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • FyrGal17
    8 months ago

    Kelly more power to you and your ability to tackle traveling. My question is do you also take your motorized chair on your trips? And if so, how does that work (via air travel)? We are looking at a trip to Taiwan to see our son and family. This would be our first time traveling with my scooter, if allowed on the plane. Thanks for your feedback. Happy Trails!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hi FyrGal17, thanks for your kind comments. And good questions! I do not always take my motorized wheelchair on trips as it depends on if I can use it where we are going. I don’t know about the accessibility of Taiwan, but mobility devices of all kinds can generally travel on planes (within certain parameters). For international travel I usually take a manual wheelchair to get over bumps and steps. I’ve heard of a light, portable folding motorized wheelchair called EZCruiser, but haven’t tried it out yet myself. I hope this helps and enjoy the trip! Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    9 months ago

    I hope so as well. I certainly appreciate how difficult this anxiety is for you and Richard. I cannot imagine.

    I hope you enjoyed the vacation.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    8 months ago

    Thanks Rick! Really appreciate it! 🙂 Cheers, Kelly

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