Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

My Summer Plans? I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by at 12:14 pm on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Yippee! Summer is officially here, finally. Hopefully summer weather will follow shortly.

July is gearing up to be a busy month travel-wise for me:

Saturday, July 14th in San Jose

Thanks to an irresistible invitation from my web accessibility colleague and friend John Foliot, I am presenting “Surf a GB with Glenda’s Thumb” at Open Web Camp IV to be held at the PayPal Town Hall.

John has put together a stellar speakers’ list, which includes some of the brightest people working in the web industry. If this is your thing, get your $10 ticket today! They are going fast.

Saturday, July 28th in Philadelphia

With a big thank you to WishUponAHero, I am climbing the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the spirit of Rocky Balboa! Yes, I am doing it!!

If you happen to be in or around Philly on July 28th, please join me and the team from WishUponADream. The day is shaping up to be amazing.

More details to come shortly.

Wednesday, August 1st in Pittsburgh

I am presenting “The New AAC: Glenda’s Life-Changing Story Starring the iPad” at the 15th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC  2012 – July 28 to August 4).

If you are attending ISAAC, don’t be shy – please come up and introduce yourself I’d love to meet you!

As for my plans for August? I am favouring a week or two staycation and reading something other than a business book or a biography. Danielle Steele has likely written an entire bookcase since I last read one of her books way back in university.

Then I’ll need to start putting together my presentation and organizing details for my potential trip to Albuquerque in mid-October! But that is another post…Smile

What are your summer plans? Or, if you are living in the other half of the world, your winter plans?

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7 Lessons Learned from a Year’s Travelling

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by at 10:13 pm on Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Preparing for my sixth trip – the fifth across the border – in slightly more than a year has felt too easy, too routine. What am I missing?

Based on experience, my travelling preparation includes:

  1. Filling out an US Customs Declaration card ahead of time on my trusty typewriter. It saves needing assistance to complete it at the airport.
  2. Updating the saved document for a Canadian Customs Declaration card and print. I have yet to score a supply of Canadian forms because they are typically handed out onboard; hence, I need assistance from a flight attendant.
  3. Packing my scooter battery charger in my bag, space permitting, rather than the pouch on the back of my chair. This way there is one less piece to keep track of while going through airport security.
  4. Thoroughly washing my hands after handling my charger. I have a hunch my charger had something to do with the chemical detected on my hands while going through security in Austin.
  5. Double checking the extension cord is still in the bottom of my bag. This can be handy in a hotel room if an outlet isn’t easily reachable to plug in my scooter once I am in bed. (My scooter’s headlight also comes in handy in that moment.)
  6. Double checking the small bar of soap is still in my bag (like it would go anywhere). The plastic wrapped soap bars found in some hotels are very tricky to open. In Austin I had to wash with shampoo. At least my armpits didn’t have dandruff!
  7. Spending a ridiculous amount of time exploring Google maps, zoomed right in, to get a sense of the sidewalk conditions and such in the area.

Let see what I learn from this next trip. Darrell and I leave early tomorrow morning for Los Angeles for BlogWorld Expo.

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The Inaccessible Nightmare Continues: Travel Stories from the Trenches

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by at 3:59 pm on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Continuing with my saga about getting from Austin to San Diego via Phoenix last Tuesday…while waiting at the gate, after having my seat upgraded from “standby” to “confirmed” thanks to my travel agent, I overheard the reason for the delay was because the flight had to switch planes twice in Charlotte, North Carolina. Some things I can do without overhearing!

After a slight delay on the tarmac due to minor mechanical issues, we took off. The flight was uneventful until we landed. While being rolled off the plane like Hannibal Lecter, I immediately noticed one of my scooter’s rear view mirrors had been busted off and one of my Gorillapod’s legs amputated; the parts had been shoved in the pouch on the back of my chair. No apology or compensation for replacement parts were offered. At that point, I was more concerned with whether my scooter still worked. But, it did make me wonder whether the rough handling by US Airways ground crew also explained some of the mechanical issues experienced by the airline.

I next discovered the accommodation guaranteed in Austin had yet to be arranged for my unscheduled stop over in Phoenix. I waited about half an hour while Customer Service booked an accessible room and determined which voucher to use for a wheelchair taxi to and from the hotel.

Finally, at the Twin Palms Hotel, the first room was not accessible in the least, despite the wheelchair symbol on the door. There was no way I could get in the bathroom. The staff person took me to a second accessible room to try. Because there was more space to turn into the bathroom, I could get the front end of my scooter in far enough to get to the toilet. A shower was out of the question and, with only seven hours until the taxi picked me up, it wasn’t even a consideration. The room would do for the short night. But, had my husband been with me, the “handicapped room” (as listed under amenities on the hotel’s site) would have been too handicapped for him to use.

A “handicapped room” with a narrow door, no space beside the toilet to park a wheelchair, no grab bars and no way to get in the shower or tub is, indeed, handicapped; not accessible. The power outlet and light switch right beside the bed were nice features though.

Thankfully the taxi driver did return at 6am precisely. Even though the airline paid the taxi fare, I tipped him handsomely. He was one of the very few during the ordeal who cared.

Back at the Phoenix airport, I proceeded through security and onto my gate without incident. Breakfast consisted of a granola bar and a handful of dried apricots before boarding yet another plane.

My scooter arrived in San Diego in working condition and without any more superfluous parts missing. Bonus! And I waited only a few minutes for the accessible shuttle to the Holiday Inn. Double bonus! Things were looking up.

After checking in and quickly freshening up in my truly accessible room, I headed to the Elephant & Castle Restaurant for a lunch courtesy of my travel agent – an appreciated gesture for the inconvenience endured. Sitting on the patio on an early spring day and overlooking the harbour, I enjoyed chicken penne, eating at my own own pace, for the first time in a week. At one point, Rod Stewart even serenaded me over the speakers. I was feeling better.

I pulled out my sunglasses and exited the hotel. Turning right to the closest crosswalk, there was no curb cut in either direction. Are you kidding me? Lord have mercy, please!

Laughing and shaking my head in disbelief (or, perhaps, in complete belief given my trip so far), I pulled an 180 degree turn and found an accessible crosswalk in the other direction.

A pleasant walk part way around the harbour found me at the Manchester Hyatt ready for the 26th Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN).

That was the end of my noteworthy accessibility issues.  Even nightmares come to an end, eventually. 

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Postcard Greetings from Hawaii

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This wintry day seems like a good time to share a few memories from our two weeks in Honolulu. Enjoy!

Glenda wearing purple orchid leis

Diamond Head with a few palm trees in the foreground

Lush green vegatation over hanging Ala Wai Canal

Hawaii Convention Center viewed from the Ala Wai Canal

Gorgeous sunset from Waikiki

Sunset with the sky aglow

Boats moored at Honolulu Marina

Lush tropical plants

Darrell enjoying Hagen Daz ice cream

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Felt Up and Tied Down: The Thrills of Flying the Friendly Skies with a Mobility Impairment

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by at 7:25 pm on Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This year I have had the pleasure of flying to Chicago, Washington DC, Vegas, and, in a few weeks, Honolulu, which has lead to a barrage of frequently asked questions, “How do you fly? Do you take your scooter? Do you remain in it on the plane?”

Here’s my lengthy response:

Going through airport security is the hairiest part of the trip, which I’m sure it is for hundreds of thousands fellow passengers, too. Being in an electric scooter, I get to bypass the standard metal detectors – to avoid setting off all kinds of alarms.

Going through a wider opening, I’m told to where to stop and wait for a female security personnel to come over. Knowing what is coming next, I swallow my sense of personal space and dignity, hold out my arms and smile. The woman in rubber gloves proceeds to thorough feel me up: along my arms, down my neck, back and sides, down my legs and inner thighs, under my butt and around my boobs. And that was before the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new procedures…I can hardly wait to experience the enhanced TSA pat-down and feel up! What more is there to be patted down?

The thing that really disturbs me is, while having my personal space invaded and my scooter being swabbed, that all of my belongings are sitting unattended on the the scanner conveyor belt – available for anyone to grab and walk off with – my money, my travel information, my iPad, everything.

At the O’Hare airport in Chicago, I undergo the pat-down in a glass-walled room. One time the woman even took off the small, traveler’s pouch I had around my neck. In that moment, I had no ID, no money, no personal information, no communication device. I felt completely vulnerable.

Having survived security and with the worst over, I now breathe a sigh of relief and  head for the boarding gate…

Typically, I can drive my scooter right to the plane’s door before sending up a little prayer, Please return my “legs” in usable condition. Airline ground crew then takes my scooter and stores in the bowels of the plane with the rest of the baggage.

Meanwhile I’m triple-strapped onto an aisle chair – a skinny chair on wheels, very much like a furniture dolly. All tied down and unable to move, I feel like Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.

Glenda being strapped onto an aisle chair

Glenda on aisle chair being wheeled on board the plane

With my arms crossed in from me, an airline staff member tilts back the chair and wheels me on board. Going down the aisle, if thighs are overhanging, it’s an instant weight loss program!

Having made it this far on my journey, I can now sit back and relax. An adult beverage would be most welcomed; however, my scooter is now stored below and I will not have free access to a washroom until we land, my scooter is brought up and I’m deplaned, last. Longer flights with a middle-aged bladder are definitely water torture!

On the flight home from DC this summer, desperation was near. I got the flight attendant’s attention and said I needed to go to the bathroom. Much to my relief, that plane had onboard wheelchair – very much like the aisle chair, but collapsible to stow in a small compartment.

Of course, using the thing provided entertainment for the other passengers, but I didn’t it care. The flight attendant wheeled me to the tiny bathroom. I stood up, he moved the chair out and closed the door. I had no fear of falling because there was no room to fall!

Despite the indignities endured, I am glad I am able travel independently.

Let’s see whether I’m as cheery after I experience the new TSA groping, err, pat-down procedures for the first time in a few weeks…

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