Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cool Kangoo

UK accessible transport company Gowrings Mobility is celebrating its 40th anniversary in a big way. They're giving away a wheelchair adapted Renault Kangoo. An example is shown here. Adaptations include: " a lowered floor for extra headroom, an integral lightweight ramp, four-point wheelchair restraint system and personal lap and diagonal belts for the wheelchair passenger so that they can travel safely in the comfort of their own wheelchair," says There's still time to enter by Dec. 9, but note that the fine print on the contest says the vehicle will be delivered to any UK address. Paralympic athlete Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who is lending her name to the contest, said : "Transport and independence is something that is really important to me. Without being physically independent, I wouldn't be able to be an athlete, so it's so important that disabled people have the opportunity to choose what they do and when they do it. With an accessible car, you can be spontaneous and go where you want, when you want. Having an adapted vehicle alters your whole outlook on going out - suddenly you stop reflecting on what you can't do, start thinking about what you can do, and then act upon it."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Be careful with the chair please

"Bad service for passengers using wheelchairs drew more attention than any other problem on the government's first tally of disability-related complaints to airlines," says this article from USA Today on a recent report to Congress on the travel challenges of the disabled. Also noted "four big carriers — American, Delta, United and Northwest — accounted for nearly 60 percent of the complaints in 2004." The article also mentions that Delta has taken steps to improve the situation. Wheelchair complaints included: inadequate assistance, damaged chairs, poor seating arrangements, inaccessible aircraft and excessive waits for stored chairs upon landing. Should airlines care about disabled passengers? The article says "about 17 million disabled passengers fly each year, according to the government's most recent estimate." Sounds like a significant market segment to me.

Meeting the MEPs

The group of visually impaired passengers kicked off a Ryanair flight because they violated the airline's four disabled people per flight rule, traveled to Brussels to lobby members of the European parliament last week. They were told a a new European law will be voted on next month that would ensure compensation for discriminatory actions by airlines. Chris Maule-Oatway, 56, from Norwich, one of the ejected passengers said: "I think it is very important for airlines not to discriminate. We understand that there are health and safety issues, but there should not be discrimination." Such a law would be a great step forward.

Emerald safety

Safer and more accessible travel for people with disabilities in northern Ireland is the goal of a recently published guide.

It's time

Buses and trains in England and Wales are starting to bear posters referencing the Time to Get Equal initiative. The posters aim to show how people with disabilities are discriminated against when it comes to public transportation. The campaign is being driven by Scope, a UK disability advocacy group. Scope chief executive Tony Manwaring said: "Disabled people will not achieve equality until they are able to travel freely. Our campaign graphically depicts the discrimination disabled people face on public transport. That `disable-ism' exists is shocking, but I'm heartened there are transport providers who know more needs to be done and want to work with Scope and disabled travellers to achieve genuine equality."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tale of two sisters

You can pick up a few tips about accessibility in Hong Kong -- especially if you're going to stay at the YMCA -- from this article by two Canadian sisters, Maura Ross and Kyra McMahon. They've been there.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sarasota smoothly

Going to Sarasota, Florida soon? If so, you might want to check out this article by Steve Wright, a freelance writer from Miami, where he gives a blow by blow of wheelchair accessibility at many of the area's high points.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Tips on Europe

If you're planning a trip to Europe, you might want to check out this article by Susan Klibanoff relating her recent experiences while traveling with her husband, a wheelchair user. You might pick up a useful tip or two or three or more.
A quote: "Our final day in London, we headed off to Harrods where, in the wonderful food court, we ended up with a gourmet picnic we consumed in St. James Park. We browsed in the stores along Regent Street and my husband said he was better off than the other men he witnessed in the boutiques, since he didn't have to look for a place to sit while I shopped."
Why don't stores have more seating for husbands? I'd use it.

I said Taxi!

There's a project going on to redesign the New York iconic yellow cab. One of the ideas is a vehicle (pictured at above link) that would be substantially more accessible than the average Crown Victoria, which comprises 92 percent of the current NYC fleet. By the way, did you know only 12 of the 12,000 cabs in New York are wheelchair accessible? That's pathetic. Meanwhile the ideas are being exhibited at Parsons The New School for Design until Jan. 15, 2006. The exhibit is titled Designing the Taxi.

One of the crowd

"Disabled people pay taxes, the same as everybody else."

This fact, from an article on the debate over modernizing buses in London, is lost on some people who would oppose or disregard public improvements that improve access. Too often is also is lost on those in the travel industry who seem to think that disabled people don't have money to spend. They're wrong, of course, but that's their loss.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Seeing the way to change

Ryanair has decided to revise its policy on limiting its flights to four disabled passengers per plane, a little bit anyway. Recently the airline took a group of nine visually impaired individuals off of a flight because the group exceeded the airline's limit of four disabled passengers. The move provoked outrage. You'll remember that Ryanair drew fire last year for charging for wheelchair use. Last week, the airline announced that "vision-impaired passengers traveling with sighted companions will no longer have to advise the airline in advance. These travelers will also not be included in the airline's safety limit of four disabled passengers per flight," the BBC reported. Ryanair head of customer services Caroline Green characterized the change as "common sense." True, but so would be reconsideration of the whole only four disabled people policy that somehow suggests that disabled passengers aboard endanger other passengers.

-- Ryanair's press release

-- John at Eurapart is encouraged by the move, but favors the quota remaining in place. He does make the good point that "a visually impaired person may well fare better than average in a smoke filled cabin." Let's call that when disability becomes ability.

I invite you to leave your thoughts on the quota or this issue as a comment.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Which way to the tube?

... "But it is important to remember that barriers to people traveling independently aren't always physical," said Peter Hendy, managing director surface transport, Transport for London. The occasion for his remark is the release of a new public transportation guide for London designed to be easier for people with learning disabilities to use. Given the difficulty in getting recognition for the more obvious physical barriers of using public facilities at times, this initiative is remarkable. "I hope this new guide will help Londoners with learning difficulties to use their public transport network and get around the city like anybody else," Hendy said. This guide and others offered by Transport for London can be downloaded here.

Accessible is best

Empress Travel and Cruises has been named one of the "Best of the Best" in the travel industry by American Express and Travel Impressions. I don't if this is the reason why, but this press release on the subject notes that Empress has a arm dedicated to "Accessible Tours."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Carnival cruises to award

The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality has given Carnival Corp. its Access to Freedom award, reports. "The Carnival brand has taken a leadership role in making their ships more accessible for travelers with disabilities, as well as in implementing sales and marketing strategies and training programs to increase guest satisfaction," said Stuart Vidockler, SATH chairman.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Scott Rains shares the progress being made in Seattle on accessible taxis. The key quote from the referenced article, as it relates to tourism is this:

"For out-of-town visitors in wheelchairs, accessible taxis relieve the need to learn a new bus system to reach tourist attractions or business meetings."

Now wouldn't that be a nice thing to be able to count on.

Getting a lift

Where I live, deer hunting season is right around the corner. Me, I'm not a hunter. But I have never heard of using a hydraulic lift as a wheelchair deer stand. Availability of some of these might be a good investment in Wisconsin tourism.

Inconvenience reconsidered

Pat Broderick is an accomplished traveler. On a recent trip, she showed a friend, Julia Malone, how traveling is done in a wheelchair. The pair wheeled/walked, taxied and flew their way across a South America tour. "Inconvenience is adventure wrongly considered, and adventure is inconvenience rightly considered," Pat announced to Julia early in the journey. The most frustrating and humiliating part of the whole trip? The air travel of course. Seems like a big industry like the airlines ought to -- as a group -- have their act together better. Those folks need a big old dose of universal design. Don't miss the tips for wheelchair travelers and their companions at the end of this article.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The right to breath

The St. Petersburg Times online reports: "Now there's encouraging news for travelers who require oxygen. In a move that alarmed airlines, the Department of Transportation has proposed requiring that airlines provide free oxygen for such passengers or let them use oxygen-generating devices deemed safe by the Federal Aviation Administration." Read the whole article if you want more details on that phrase about alarming the airlines. A mandate for them to accept or provide this clearly is the only way that it will be come routine.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gambling on discrimination

Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, perhaps the world's most proudly discriminatory airline toward the disabled, has said his company is sticking by its limit for disabled people per flight. Recently, a group of nine blind passengers were taken off a Ryanair flight because they had not given prior notice of their disability to the airline. "The limit is not discriminatory. It is there for safety reasons. This group of nine didn't notify us they were blind. I would take them off tomorrow," O'Leary told The Independent. In the same article, O'Leary revealed that Ryanair plans to pursue in-flight gambling that might be so lucrative that it could drastically increase the number of seats it could give away -- perhaps even to 100 percent. With that wad of cash in the bank, perhaps they will also be able to serve an unlimited number of disabled people -- safely.

But don't bet on it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Questions and answers

This question from the website of the Mail Tribune in Oregon raises an ongoing dilemma for travelers with disabilities. Of course it is best when no accommodation needs to be made. Everywhere should be universally accessible. But that's far from always the case. Should motorized vehicles be allowed in a nature area for the disabled where they are not allowed for others? Note that standard wheelchairs are allowed.

What do you think? Log your opinion as a comment.