My wheelchair van broke down in rush hour traffic in Austin. For those who know Austin traffic, that right there is a disaster. I also had my son in his wheelchair with me, making it an emergency. After a 911 call, first responders arrived quickly. They helped me get my van off the highway to a safe place. Little did I know, we would be stuck there for six hours trying to find replacement wheelchair transportation.
Before this incident, I hadn’t thought enough about what I would do if our van broke down. My son is an adult with very specific seating needs. He cannot sit in the seat of a car, even if I could somehow get him into a car. It has to be a wheelchair van.
My first line of defense was our family’s second wheelchair van. It is old and clunky, but we can usually use it in a pinch. Not this time. It was in an airport parking lot while my husband was on a business trip.
Time for plan B. I have friends with wheelchair vans, but I couldn’t get ahold of them, and this wasn’t a great backup plan, either. Most of them can’t leave their child with special health care needs at home to make a roadside rescue, and they can’t bring their child with them because vans can only hold one wheelchair at a time.
Moving on to plan C. I knew I had previously seen taxi companies with wheelchair vans. I contacted one of the companies through their website. After waiting for an hour, they showed up with a small sedan. They intended to fold the wheelchair into the trunk and put my son in the back seat. Nope.
As it got to be evening, my options dwindled. I tried a rideshare company, but they had no wheelchair vans. I was so desperate I thought about calling 911 again to get an ambulance to pick us up.
It was my son’s teacher who eventually came to our rescue. She knew the owners of a private wheelchair transport company. They were booked until 8 p.m. but kindly agreed to drive across town to pick us up after their last run. We made it home at 9:30 p.m., six hours after our van first stalled.
I learned some valuable lessons that day. For wheelchair users, a car breakdown is as much of an emergency as losing power or water. Now, I will keep multiple transport company names in my contacts and call around to see who offers after-hours and emergency wheelchair transport before the next breakdown. I need to review and update my plans at least once a year. Most importantly, I can never have too many backup plans.