Travel Tips from Bert Burns: Paralympian, World-Traveler, LASCI Founder and Father of Twins

Bert Burns started LASCI as a motivational speaking program for newly-injured patients with spinal cord injury.

Bert Burns

Editor’s Note: Giving up wasn’t an option for  Bert Burns. Thirty-one years ago,  Bert was involved in a devastating car  wreck and became a C6-7 quadriplegic.  Although life as he knew it was altered  forever, Bert refused to slow down and today is changing the way quadriplegics  and paraplegics across the nation experience everyday life through the  non-profit motivational program he created called Life After Spinal Cord Injury  [LASCI].

Prior to starting a leading  urology supply company, UroMed, in 1996, Bert competed for many years as an  international wheelchair racer, winning events around the world.  Competing worldwide as a wheelchair racer  until 2004, Bert was featured in 15 consecutive issues of SPORTS ‘N SPOKES  magazine over the course of his sports career.   However, his greatest achievement  in racing came in 1992 as he accepted a gold medal at the Barcelona Paralympics  for the 4×400 relay. 

A seasoned world traveler, Bert  shares his travel advice below.

Q: Bert, what kind of questions do you get  from attendees at LASCI events?

A: “During LASCI motivational  events,  people ask me about  everything from wheelchair sports to using a catheter on a plane,” Bert  says.  “They’re basic topics, but  they’re the kinds of things you don’t even think about until your life is  changed forever,” Bert says.   [LASCI events typically take place in  rehabilition hospitals and other locations to assist disabled youth and adults  who have recently learned they will be using a wheelchair.]

Q: What kind of travel destinations do you  choose for family vacations or getaways with your wife,  Joy?

A: “While I maintain my  independence and I’m able to do pretty much everything on my own, there are  still things I can’t do. So when we go on vacation, walks on the beach and hikes  into themountains are out of the question.But we’ve worked around any can’t-dos  with can-dos. Instead, we go on cruises, hang by the pool, scuba dive and snow  ski together [via adaptive skiing].”

Bert and Emma Burns admire the London Velodrome.

Bert and Emma Burns admire the London Velodrome.

Q: I have a spinal cord injury, and I’ll be  flying next week. What should I know?

A: “I fly a lot, nationally and  internationally. The first thing you should always do before getting on the  plane? Go pee. Either use a catheter or a leg bag, but go do it. And if you are  going to be on a long flight, the night before you leave, do a bowel program.  Your biggest fear on an airplane will always be having a bowel  accident.”

“When getting on the plane, you  will wheel down the ramp, and they’ll transfer you to an aisle chair. They’ll  take you back to your seat. Make sure you take your chair cushion with you.  Don’t leave anything valuable in your wheelchair, and if you normally keep a bag  under your chair, take it with you.”

Q. What kind of modifications did you make  to your car so you could go on road trips?

A: “Right now, the only  automotive equipment I have are hand controls installed on my convertible, and  set of portable hand controls that I can use with rental cars or friends’  cars.  You can also request hand  controls when renting a car from any major car rental agency. However, I can see  as I’m getting older, I’ll be using more adaptive equipment in the future. Not  too far off in the future, I may have a minivan with a ramp as I am entering my  50s!”

Bert and his amazing wife, Joy, love to take cruises and visit the beach together - like in this trip to Mexico!

Bert and his amazing wife, Joy, love to take cruises and visit the beach together – like in this trip to Mexico!

Q: When you travel places, are your kids  embarrassed because dad is in a wheelchair?

A: “No, not at all! My kids want  to know why other dads don’t have a wheelchair. It’s like a great toy for them.  They love riding in my lap, even now that they are 10 years old. It’s really  opened up their minds to see all the things their dad can do.”

Q: If a young person would like to move  away from home to go to college, but they are afraid to leave home because they  use a wheelchair, what would you recommend for them?

A: “After my injury, I knew I  had to get an education. It was hard enough to find a job while walking.  Wheeling around, I needed all the options I could get. Fortunately, after your  injury, division rehab services or vocational services will pay for school if  you are on disability. They will cover tuition, books and any additional  modifications because of your injury.”

“Getting around campus, I just  had to push around. Every school has a disabled services department, and they  will work closely with you to schedule your classes. They’ll even move a class  location if they need to set up your classes in the same building or area for  accessibility,” Bert advises.

UroMed offers free LASCI motivational events like this one at MetroHealth Rehab as a means of giving back to the community that we serve.

UroMed offers free LASCI motivational events like this one at MetroHealth Rehab as a means of giving back to the community that we serve.

Q: Any last words of  advice?

A: “Sure, if you are new to  using a wheelchair, always keep this in mind. There are 10,000 things you can  do, and in a wheelchair there are 7,000. So are you going to go home and think  of the 3,000 things you can’t do? No! Go do the 7000 things that you can do,  focus on the positive,” Bert insists.

More than anything, Bert  encourages other friends who use wheelchairs to not be afraid to get out and  enjoy life! “All of us are using a wheelchair now, and a lot of times, it’s not  fair,” Bert says. “Once you go home from rehab you have two choices to make – If  you go home and say, life sucks, it will. Or you can go home and say, These are  the cards I was dealt, and I’m going to make the most of them. If that’s the  choice you make, you’ll be OK. What choice are YOU going to make?”

Bert often takes his own advice,  travelling cross-country on a regular basis for LASCI events nationwide.

lasci logoLearn More at LASCI

The free articles and online  peer support  programs available  through LASCI often answer personal questions regarding dating, marriage,  sports, jobs, and more. For more LASCI resources, please visit or join more than 19,000 LASCI  members on Facebook at

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit or call 1-800-841-1233.

One Response to Travel Tips from Bert Burns: Paralympian, World-Traveler, LASCI Founder and Father of Twins

  1. Joshua says:

    Cool article – brings me back to when I used to home swap whenever I traveled. Good ole

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