Traveling in a wheelchair is always a challenge. My family hasn’t vacationed in the two years before this trip (since my brother’s injury), so the world of traveling handicapped is an astoundingly new one to us.
Either way, this is generally how things went down.
When we arrived in Houston, we were already a bit frazzled. The 3+ hour drive from Austin is exhausting at mid-day, and we were anxiously awaiting our visit to HMNS (the Houston Museum of Natural Science) after having spent well over 45 minutes just braiding through the same three or four blocks in search of a parking garage. Once we found one, we found ourselves having to march up to the fifth floor of the garage to find decent parking spots. I think what was most interesting was that the fourth floor (yes, the fourth) was for handicap only, yet, at least, three cars on that floor had zero identification on them. Just letting you know, that’s illegal. Of course, we ended up running into the same issue when going to dinner in Clear Lake, so clearly there’s a bigger issue with people being unable to read large, blue signs across Texas.
However, the rest of our day was pleasant, and despite needing help getting into the museum through an obscure back entrance and then having to find each other on the other side ten minutes later, the visit to the museum was smooth, and the exhibits were pleasant. Everything had gone as planned, and thankfully we didn’t have to make any bizarre arrangements since I’d called HMNS the day before to make sure we’d be able to get around without a problem.
That late evening, we arrived at the Hilton Americas – Houston. Getting in was a breeze, and the lady made sure to take note of our handicap accessibility room that I reserved online, but there’s a lot of distinct decisions you have to make when choosing a hotel room. Alex is thankful to have my parents and myself around to help him around, but that isn’t the case for most, as bed heights, sinks, bathtubs, and toilets all are still a hassle to get about. Even though we had a handicap room, the only prominent differences that I could spot were the peephole on the door being lower set and the room being a bit wider. Otherwise, it looked like your average hotel room. There wasn’t even a roll-in shower or a lowered sink or anything of the like. It struck me as peculiar. Also, as if being in a wheelchair wasn’t unpleasant enough, we had the pleasure of listening to the rattling of the service elevator which was disguised as a room next to us as the shaft went up and down throughout the night. We were at the end of the hallway, too, so Alex’s arms were exhausted by the time we reached the elevators (due to the friction of the thick carpet beneath us). The layout seemed to make no sense, and we felt as if though we’d been tossed to the side and perhaps been undermined as guests even though we paid as much as everyone else and well, we were guests. Definitely not our most hospitable trip. At least the food downstairs was good and the parking garage wasn’t too far, even though it was labeled as “public parking”. Yeah, I didn’t understand that as “Hilton Guest Parking ” either. It’s okay, because eventually someone who worked at the garage came up to us and explained that the garage belonged to the Hilton, so everything worked out in that sense.
Even though I’d called Johnson Space Center about four times before we even went to Houston trying to find out how accessibility was around the place, but everything on that end turned out alright for us. It was interesting how sophisticated the ramps on their tram cars were, and all of our tour guides kept an eye on us and offered to help as much as they could with a smile.
If you’re thinking of traveling to Houston (or anywhere else for that matter) and you’re also in a wheelchair, I think you might like to take a look at these links! They’re all extremely user-friendly and are packed with tons of great articles that I myself have been checking out prior to the next time we travel with Alex!
Some useful links and videos for handicap travelers
Until next time!