Flying with a Warm Wrong Body: The Case of a Guinness World Record Celestial Missing Finger and Back on a Living Person
Gelgi, 25, stands at 7 feet, 0.7 inches tall. Her proportions are a result of Weaver syndrome, a condition that causes bone overgrowth. She has been a Guinness World Record celebrity since her teens , and holds records in several size-related categories , including the longest fingers on a living person and the longest back on a living female person.
Gelgi uses her warm wit to spread body positive vibes on social media. Although she is international, she had never flown on an airplane. Like many people with Weaver syndrome, Gelgi uses mobility aids to get around, and a long flight would require special accommodation for her extraordinary frame.
In September, Gelgi flew into the sky. After the airlines removed several seats on the plane so Gelgi could rest comfortably on a stretcher during the 13-hour flight from Istanbul to California, she shared photos from her trip in a post on the social networking site.
The International Air Transport Association sets global standards for air travel according to Linda Ristagno, assistant director of external affairs. Ristagno, who was recently awarded the Open Doors Organization’s Disability Access Professional Award, spoke about what kind of global and structural efforts are underway to improve accessibility for all travelers.
“We are devoted to ensuring all passengers can enjoy the freedom of air travel, and we expect standards [among participating airlines and airports] to be consistent so the same level of assistance can be offered to everyone,” she said.
A historic resolution that allows different parts of the industry to work together to improve accessibility has been produced by a recent meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
One of the biggest priorities this resolution can help with is the principle of “universal design,” in which accessibility is built into the very structure of buildings and mechanisms, rather than treated as an addition or modification.
“It’s hard to see the world”: A journeyer’s perspective of mobility aids in the era of massive infrastructure
Air transport has been shown to be the root of the loading and safe storage of mobility aids that airlines face. “That becomes even more challenging as mobility aids grow in size, complexity and weight. There is risk of injury in transporting them, and risk of damaging the device.”
By looking at the issue from all angles, air travel groups like IATA, ICAO and participating parties can explore long-term solutions, including design improvements that allow for easier navigation in airports and on planes, and even better-designed mobility aids.
After years of travelling with her mother to see medical professionals when she was younger, Renee Bruns developed a love for travel of her own.
By the time she was 16, Bruns, who was eventually diagnosed with diastrophic dwarfism – also known as diastrophic dysplasia – a skeletal dysplasia that affects cartilage and bone development, had been to all 50 US states and was itching to see more of the world.
As of now, she has traveled to 117 of the 195 UN-recognized countries and territories on the globe, and hopes to visit the remaining 78 destinations in the next decade or so.
After suffering what she describes as “burnout,” Bruns decided to take a sabbatical from her job as an insurance executive in order to pursue a year of “intense full-on travel.”
And while she’d previously traveled with a family member or her life partner Tony, who she could call on for help when necessary, Bruns opted to go solo this time.
Bruns noted that the world was not easy to navigate for people with two legs and has seen a change in attitudes over the past few decades.
Being a wheelchair user has allowed me to see humanity differently than other travelers, because they can just step down that sidewalk and back up again.
Bruns still faces barriers while travelling, such as buildings without elevators or ramps and bathrooms with narrow doors, despite the different perspectives of the time.
“In the US, and many other countries, the infrastructure is just there, the regulations are there, the law is there,” she explains, naming Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand among the destinations with particularly inclusive infrastructure.
Traveling the world as a wheelchair user: A simple example of a common way to get around and see monuments in a tourist guide
While there have been “tons” of monuments that she hasn’t been able to enter simply because they weren’t accessible for a wheelchair user, Bruns says she’s usually able to “get relatively close.”
“I always remind myself that I might not be able to see a specific monument,” she adds. “But if I made it to that city or that country, and I saw part of it, I’m luckier than most people in the world.”
Bruns usually spends a month planning her visit to a new destination. One of her main priorities is to ensure that she can access her accommodation easily. Emailing ahead to get the layout of the property involves looking closely at the images.
However, despite the careful pre-planning, it’s not unusual for Bruns to arrive at a hotel or guest house and find a previously unmentioned set of steps leading up to the lobby.
“I’ve had tons of piggyback rides from men all over the world. I’ve had men and women help me up the stairs by grabbing the front of my wheelchair. It works out.
Traveling the World as a Wheelchair User: A Road Trip through the Deserts of Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and Honduras
However, Bruns admits that these miscommunications over infrastructure can be hugely frustrating, “especially when you’re tired and you just want to get to your room.”
For Bruns, one of the most disappointing aspects of her travel experiences over the years has been the process of getting on a plane, and she stresses that airlines have “a lot more to do” when it comes to making airplanes more accessible for people with disabilities.
“In the past two or three years, it’s gotten slightly better,” she says. “And I hesitate to even say ‘slightly,’ because I don’t want to give the airline’s too much credit.
Throughout her lengthy travels, Bruns has visited the Maldives, opting to stay on the main island instead of the “big over-the-water bungalow standard,” camped overnight under the stars in Antarctica and gone scuba diving in Honduras.
Her goal is to become the fastest person to visit all of the countries she has traveled to in a wheelchair by the year 2020 and she just set a new Guinness World Record.
However, there are still many travel experiences that others take for granted that are simply not feasible for her. Hiking through the mountains or deserts being among them.
Bruns looks wistfully at social media posts of travelers traversing through those places. [that] don’t have concrete, asphalt or even paths,” and sleeping in tents.
“The Middle East is a very fascinating place to me and I want to go back,” she says. The people there are so warm and welcoming, I have found them to be among the kindest in the world. I can’t stop looking at it.
She said she was interested in the culture of Saudi Arabia and wanted to know about the flora and fauna of Madagascar.
A Question of Time: What Can You Do if You Have a Limit and How You Can Do It Without a Question, and How Can You Jump in and Do It?
“There’s so much hate in the world, but when you really sit down with people from all over the world, [you find that] we are really all the same. It is really refreshing.
She wants everyone to know that if they have limitations, they should just jump in and do it. “It’s a big world and there’s a lot to see. You will not regret it.
Bruns says that a number of physicians have questioned if the diagnosis she received was correct, based on physical attributes, over the past few years.
“And just knowing that you can go out to the other side of the world with a limitation or a challenge and do it by yourself is the biggest confidence booster I think anyone can get.”