Thursday, April 21, 2016

Accessibilities Summit 2016

Last weekend I helped my mom out with her business, Trippin' with Jamie, at the Accessibilities Summit in Mclean, VA. This conference is focused on helping families with specials needs connect with service providers and other families, as well as having speakers and workshops talking about various topics all focused on special needs.

For those of you not familiar with Trippin' with Jamie, my mom is a travel consultant and helps families plan vacations. She has and does help anyone who wants to travel (yes, that was a shameless plug for her business, but hey, who doesn't want to travel??), but she also has a special interest in helping families with specials needs navigate the crazy world of vacation planning.

The coolest part for me helping at these sort of events is being able to talk with parents who had no idea that travel with their child was even a possibility. Many times, when there is a family member with special needs, all the parent's time and resources go toward that child just out of necessity. When they realize that there are so many vacation options now that can accommodate children both with and without disabilities, they realize that they can actually do something for their other children while still making sure all their special needs are met. 

Why am I sharing this? Other than doing some marketing for my mom's business (Trippin' with Jamie! =P), it's to share that I don't mind being the "token disabled person." Part of the reason that I enjoy being a part of these conferences is because I can stand up and share my personal experiences of traveling with a disability. 

I know what it is like to be living with a feeding tube and wondering if I can go on vacation attached to a feeding pump and a tube hanging off my body. I know the anxiety that comes with having severe food allergies and wondering if I'll be able to eat anything and have to hope the kitchen understands cross contamination. I've struggled through being unable to walk and having to plan activities around whether I can use a wheelchair or spend most of the time sitting. I deal with limited energy and knowing that my body can't handle a full day of activities and having to prioritize what are must-do activities, what are hope-to activities, and which ones I sit out while my family may go and do on their own.

BUT, I also know what it is like to enjoy a cruise to Alaska while being on a feeding tube and having limited energy. I know what the access laws are for a service dog and what I can and can't do while traveling with Leni. I know what it's like to know where the closest hospital is and how accessible the ER may be from wherever we are staying. I've dealt with making accommodations to make sure my needs were met and still having a great trip with my family.

Some of my best memories from growing up are from trips we took as a family. Some of my best memories as an adult are also of the trips we have taken as a family. I didn't have my medical issues as a child, but I do now and we haven't let that stop us. Our trips may look a bit different than they did when I was a kid, but that doesn't make them any less memorable. Planning and taking vacations now IS more complicated, any sort of special needs will do that. But that doesn't mean that it can't be done, and if anything, it makes us appreciate our vacations that much more.

No two families deal with the same special needs, but being able to share our personal experience traveling with my medical issues helps families know that we understand. I love being a part of Trippin' with Jamie because it gives me the opportunity to help other families living with disabilities and special needs realize that making memories on family vacations doesn't have to be off the table for them. Yes, traveling with specials needs is tough and it probably won't ever be "easy" but our knowledge of the travel industry and personal experience dealing with my special needs means we can make it a bit easier.

We get it. We know the struggles of day-to-day life with a chronic illness. We know how much more complicated travel can be with special needs and that just thinking about traveling can feel overwhelming. That's why we do what we do and why I love being a part of Trippin' with Jamie.

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