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Good news – London to Amsterdam direct by train.

Helen and I have taken the Eurostar to from London to Paris several times. We love it. Train travel is so vastly superior to flying for those of us in wheelchairs that I cannot even begin to describe the difference. We have also taken the train from London to Amsterdam on several occasions, and although it is still much better than getting there by plane, the trip involves a change in Brussels that adds a lot of stress (and rolling; Brussels Midi is a very big station) to the trip.

Good news, everyone!

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2016/10/eurostar-will-go-direct-to-amsterdam-next-year-in-just-4-hours/


New Report Shows That Equality for Disabled People Is STILL a Long Way off

The Life Quadriplegic

A new report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found that disabled people in the UK are being let down right across the board.

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Uber rolls out wheelchair accessible vehicles in London

https://newsroom.uber.com/uk/ldnwav/

“Convenient, safe and affordable transportation, everywhere for everyone. That’s the big idea at the heart of Uber – and now we’re another step closer to that goal.  
 
Today, developed with the support of UK disability charities Scope, Whizz-Kidz and Transport for All, we are proud to announce that Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV) can be requested through the Uber app for the same price as an uberX.
 
Watch our first rider, Whizz-Kidz’s Young Trustees Chair George, taking uberWAV for a spin around town.”

If You’re Just Getting Started

I am not in total agreement with everything presented in this video (for example, i am a strong proponent of foam tires, no matter where you are), but if you have just recently been put into the world where wheelchair choice is an important thing, then the lovely, lighthearted way in which this issue is presented by Mary Allison Cook in the video is really valuable.


La Pedrera, Barcelona Spain.

Barcelona is still, in my opinion, the most accessible of all European cities. I have been told that it was made so for the 1992 Paralympics, and it has never lost that easy-rolling characteristic.
For me, as a T-12 para, it’s a breeze.

One of the big attractions in Barcelona is the influence, and several examples of, the architecture of Antoni Gaudi; whose buildings, constructed according to his Catalan Modernism still look amazing today. Gaudi’s architecture looks and feels both modern and timeless, as if we have yet to catch up with his style.

One of his more famous buildings is “La Pedrera” (or “Stone Quarry” in English), and in 2009, Helen and i had a chance to check it out. I wasn’t too sure about how well it would work, as some of these places constructed before 1970 (at least) can be a challenge to access. I was pleasantly surprised.

I found La Pederera to be a very enjoyable visit, barring these factors…
 
The access into the building is initially quite “angled”; down an alarmingly steep ramp. There were, however, several staff to help me had I lost control of my chair.
 
I was urged to go to the roof (“Puede usted va a la terraza!” ). It sounded great! Every one of the staff looked so very pleased to inform me that i could access the roof that i couldn’t resist. Hey, why not? They had a lift.
 
No. The accessible area on the roof was about 6 foot by six foot, and i had a bit of claustrophobia up there. The roof of La Pedrera is famous for Gaudi’s chimney pots that look like Moorish soldiers, but for a guy in a chair, there wasn’t much of a thrill.
 
Other than that, the plusses…
 
The staff was incredibly helpful.
 
I think i got a massively reduced rate, and my wife got in free as my “Carer”.
 
Other than the roof, every floor was accessible enough for me to participate in every exhibit that able-bodied people enjoyed,
 
The best bit was the apartment, maintained in the same style as the flats were decorated at the time (the 1910’s to 30’s) that the building was opened for occupation by the public. The owners of the flat were of the middle class,, so the apartment as was is a beautiful example of what home was like for ordinary people in pre-Franco Spain.

Again,  Barcelona has for me, been a breeze in a chair, and La Pedrera is one of many things that make this city worth a trip

(pssssst! If you take the metro “autobus”from the airport, you can get to Plaza Catalunya for 3.00 Euros, rather than 30.00Euros in a cab)


This made me laugh.

Well, no kidding.


Dude, Where’s My Chair?

For me, and I think many wheelchair travelers, one of the most stressful aspects of air travel is having to lose contact with your wheelchair for the duration of the light (at least), and to trust that the people in charge of these things will actually put it on the plane in order that it be there when you arrive at your destination.

I know that the personnel involved take it very seriously, but when it’s all said and done, the wheelchair goes in with the rest of the luggage, and luggage does get lost. It’s not just me that worries about this. Helen also feels the same anxiety, and she almost always asks the ground crew to “Please make sure this goes on the plane.”

It would be an absolute catastrophe—probably a holiday-wrecker—if my wheelchair were to get lost in transit.

To put a perspective for any able-bodied readers of this blog on how stressful it is to trust airline personnel with a wheelchair, try to imagine how it would feel if you were to have to surrender your legs at the door of the plane and trust that they would be there for you when you arrive at your destination.

My wheelchair is my legs.

I have gotten better about dealing with this stress, and I have become increasingly confident in knowledge that the airline staff will put my chair in the hold, but there is still a moment of gut-wrenching stress when I transfer into the aisle chair that will get me onto the plane and see my “legs” for the last time for the duration of the flight. I don’t obsess as badly now as I used to, but there is still always the niggling fear in the back of my mind (especially when we get to our destination and there is any delay whatsoever in retrieving my chair) that something will have distracted the person responsible for putting my chair in the cargo hold, or that it will somehow have been otherwise impeded and will not have been put on the plane.

This is a statement that I fear above almost any other when we are on Holiday, “Oh, we’re really sorry, sir, but it would appear that your wheelchair was never put on the plane and is still in London.”

Thankfully, this has never happened (*knock wood*), but it still causes me a lot of anxiety in that period of time between surrender of chair and retrieval of chair.

I think a big part of it is that I never see them actually put my chair on the plane. I would seriously, happily, pay the airline an extra fiver if they would have whoever loads my chair on the plane take a photo of it in the hold with their phone and then come show me the picture so I could relax in confidence that my chair was actually on the plane with me.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s better if I don’t know what’s actually happening with my chair once I give it up to the ground crew.

I found this out the hard way when Helen and I first flew to Copenhagen in 2005.

I took photos from the departure lounge as the luggage handlers drove up to the conveyor belt with my chair in their trailer. Here they are…

"Yay" There it is! My wheelchair is in with the other luggage!"

“Yay” There it is! My wheelchair is in with the other luggage!”

"Woo hoo, and there are the guys to load it!"

“Woo hoo, and there are the guys to load it! They’ve got it ready to go!”

"Yay! They're almost done loading the baggage. My wheelchair is next!"

“Yay! They’re almost done loading the baggage. My wheelchair is next!”

"Ok guys. You can put my chair on now. Guys? Don't forget my chair!"

“Ok, you can put my chair on now, buddy. Come on, just put it on the belt! Come on, what are you waiting for?”

"Um..guys? Hey guys, my chair! Guys? My chair! Hello? Guys?"

“Um..guys? Hey guys, my chair! Guys? My chair! Hello? Guys?”

Thankfully, even though I was called to board before I ever saw my chair make it onto the plane, it was loaded and was ready for me when we got to Denmark. Even so, I will never forget the fear I felt as i watched the luggage handlers drive off and leave my chair sitting on the tarmac.

I guess it’s better if we don’t see everything that happens, sometimes.


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