Wheel The World

17 April 2020

Wheel the World: Travelling with Walkers and Wheelchairs
by Jeanette Dean
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95  ISBN 9-781988-783505

I’ve just spent a pleasant afternoon with Jeanette Dean’s book Wheel the World: Travelling with Walkers and Wheelchairs. As the entire world’s currently anchored with the Coronavirus pandemic, we need travel books like Dean’s: over a few hours and 202 pages, she took me on well-described journeys around the globe, across Canada, and through my home province of Saskatchewan while I practiced social isolation on my comfortable couch. The title infers that this might be a “How To” book, but I’m suggesting it’s a wonderful armchair- adventure title for people with mobility issues or fully able bodies.  

Dean and her husband, Christopher Dean, are British-born educators – now retired – who share passions for travel and photography. Saskatoon’s been home since 1966, and there Jeanette spent twenty-two years teaching at the R.J.D. Williams School for the Deaf. In her latter years, Dean’s arthritis has seen her transition from walker to wheelchair, but these challenges have not metaphorically slowed her one iota. She states: “Above all, this book is intended as an expression of the joy of travelling itself, regardless of the challenges.” Yes, there are many tips for travelers with mobility issues, ie: cruise ship passengers can take accessible taxis at ports-of-call, and design their own tours; England’s cobblestone streets don’t lend themselves well to mobility aids; and one can take a handicap parking permit anywhere in the world, and it’ll be valid. Dean rightly states that maneuvering around the Cavendish, PEI beaches or across the rocks at Peggy’s Cove would be hard-going for those with mobility issues. She advises mobility-challenged travelers not to slow group travel or put extra stress on tour guides. Planning, she advises, is the key to successful travel for those with limited mobility, and one should “recognize what [one] cannot do easily and enjoy the rest without whining”.

I made copious notes while reading this well-written, interesting, and often light-hearted book. I reminisced as Dean described places I’d been, ie: Melbourne and Moose Jaw, and made notes about the destinations I’d like to visit. Dean’s anecdotes about a “safari-like park” in small-town Glen Rose, the River Walk district in San Antonio, and Moody Gardens in Galveston compel me to visit Texas. Similarly, the couples’ tour of National Trust properties in England appeals. The “leafy lanes of Kent” led to the one-time private home of Winston Churchill (“As we walked through the Grecian colonnade at the back of the house, we could easily imagine him pacing back and forth as he practiced his inspiring speeches”). 

In Maui they enjoyed a visit to a lavender farm, and I was right there when she described Maui’s “twisting road to Hana,” and watching the sun set from the Haleakala Crater, where she arrived via a bus with a wheelchair lift. “Our driver was very helpful at all the stops,” she writes, “even pushing the wheelchair and singing when the path got very steep”.  

With our aging population and contemporary society’s penchant for travel, the subject of mobility-challenged travelling will become increasingly topical.         


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