Monday, September 11, 2006

Spirit willing, knowledge lacking

I can relate to a sentiment expressed here by John Horan about his recent expereicnes with rail travel in Germany. No I haven't ever attempted to cart a tricycle on a train form England to Germany for a cyciling tour. -But I have encountered the gap between the accessibility of a systems facilities and the preparedness of its staff to be helpful. He foundthe rail cars to be wonderfully appointed for a traveler with a disability. But the staff, though willing to help, acted like they had never encountered the situation before. That reminds me of my experience using New Jersy Transit last year with my son who uses a wheelchair when we were visitng New York City. The stations etc. had the accomodations. But the staff, while nice and all, was not together on helpful procedures. The engineers didn't know how to get lined up with the ramps on the platfroms. The plates that bridged the gap between the platforms and the train cars were locked up. A conducter didn't know which stops had wheelchair access to get off and which did not (luckily I did!). Horan's solution sounds quite similar to mine offered at the time: "The German railway staff want to help, but they didn't know how. What they need, then, is for more disabled people to take a risk and use the German railways so that an unfamiliar situation becomes a common one."


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