Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You can feel it

Tactile guide systems have been installed at 39 train stations in Singapore to help those with visual disabilities get around the stations and board trains.

Have ski poles, will travel

Jim Colquhoun's idea of a vacation would not be for everyone. But he's not letting a wheelchair get in the way of an Antarctic adventure.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Now this is taking the bus

Floridian Doug Wilder tricked out an old school bus with many of the comforts of home but for traveling over the road -- including a lift for his wheelchair.

Travelers best friend

Should you have to pay double because you travel with a service animal? That seems to be the goal of a proposed change in regulations that would allow US airlines to charge for another seat when someone travels with a service animal. A KNBC in LA report on the issue includes this testimony in which it sounds like travelers with disabilities weren't encountering any problems traveling with their animals. In fact, other travelers seemed willing to adapt to accommodate the animals. Why change? The Oakland Press reports the change relates to the Air Carrier Access Act. If the animal doesn't fit in the space in front of the passenger, the airline could charge for another seat, under the proposed change. Rod Hanlon, chief operating officer of Leader Dogs, told the Press "The airlines talked about this before, and now apparently the DOT has issued proposed rules to authorize airlines to charge a disabled passenger for an extra ticket if the disabled person's service dog doesn't fit into the small amount of floor space directly in front of where the disabled person is sitting on an airplane. This is not fair. The dog is your choice of a mobility tool. You're being discriminated against, in essence, because your choice of a mobility tool doesn't fit perfectly into their seat." If you didn't want to pay for the seat, the animal would have to travel as cargo. The KNBC story notes that service dogs are allowed and even accommodated in the cabin by British Airways.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gotham gondola

Rolling Rains has a post on a proposed interesting way to see New York -- and it would be wheelchair accessible.

More Aruba airport access

Queen Beatrix International Airport in Aruba is adding elevators.

Better access in India in the offing

The Delhi (India) High Court is taking some steps toward improving access for people with disabilities to rail and air travel there. The court has ordered railways to provide wheelchairs for those who need them at the carrier's cost. The court also has directed airlines there to list their provisions for people with disabilities. I don't know Indian currency, but check out at the end of this article the extra charges levied by some airlines for travelers with disabilities. Let's hope eliminating that practice is the next target on the High Court's radar.

It can be done

Through persistence, and a little help from the prospect of bad publicity that getting one of those TV news consumer advocates can bring, Dino Leone actually was able to get an airline to pay to replace his wheelchair damaged while in the airline's care.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Research, research, research

What to see? The National Aquarium. An authentic cheesesteak sandwich. The Rolling Sotnes and Elton John memorabilia at the Hard Rock. Cafe.
Thanks to an "Overnight Trip Planning Via the Internet" course, some New York people with developmental disabilities are learning firsthand about vacation planning travel.

Another agent converted

A travel agent that is ready to specialize in helping people with disabilities enjoy travel is worth a plug, as far as I'm concerned. Bridget Peirson is such an agent.

Should be the same

The UK bus transit company mentioned in this story says it is only required to take certain types of wheelchairs on its buses, which doesn't include the type used by Simon Morris, 40, from Tairgwaith near Ammanford.
Made we wonder, do they only allow certain types of shoes as well?
The quotes from Morris in this article are particularly enlightening:

-- "Lots of people like me...are too embarrassed to try because we don't want to be turned away."

-- "My £10 notes are the same as everybody else's £10 notes. It's all got the Queen's head on it, but people look at me and say there's something different about yours because yours is in a wheelchair."

-- "I just want independence - it's not much to ask."

Going for the gold

During this time when more of us than usual are captivated with winter sports due to the Olympics, I saw this item on the National Ability Center's Snow Shredders Program. It could allow you to go for your own figurative gold medal. Bobsled anyone?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ohhhh it's a policy now

The latest example of a person who uses a wheelchair being kicked off a plane occurred in South Africa. This airline's policy, enacted just in September (the spokesperson thinks) requires passengers to be accompanied if they need assistance in "being loaded onto the aircraft and into a seat." When I read these stories, I am struck at the obvious solution, but puzzled as to why nothing is happening in that direction. Clearly, the airlines need to be required to have a seating area available that can accommodate a wheelchair when needed. No transfer in this case and there should be no "safety" problem as they define it. Other transportation systems have been required to at least make some steps in this direction. Why not airlines? It wouldn't necessarily need to be something that permanently takes up seating either. Commuter trains often have convertible spaces. Have you seen what they are doing these days with seats that easily stow in mini-vans? Why not a version for planes?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

An exclusive Q&A on disabled travel in the UK

When I read and posted about The Mersey Neurological Trust exhibition on travel for people with disabilities , I was fascinated enough with the idea that I wanted to know more. How it went, will they do it again, what insights might they have on travel by the disabled? I was fortunate to connect with Danny Start, administration and marketing officer for The Mersey Neurological Trust. We had a little Q and A, which I share here:

Get Around Guide: How did the exhibition this year go? How many exhibitors were there? What was attendance like?
Start: There were 15 exhibitors (a full complement) and approximately 150 visitors. Tons of information was provided and taken away - plenty of follow up calls asking for information about the day, brochures etc

Get Around Guide: Will you host another? When?
Start: .The event is bi-annual so we should be organizing another in 2008 (although some exhibitors thought this should be an annual thing - to be discussed...).

Get Around Guide: What kind of feedback did you get from attendees? From exhibitors?
Start: Feedback (was) good to excellent -- no major criticisms. Issues around parking and maybe getting the mix/variety of exhibitors right. We could have done with representation from an insurance company but, having said that, Age Concern did offer insurance information.

Get Around Guide: How did you identify this as something to do? Do you hear a lot about a need for accessible travel options?
Start: Arranging a holiday, if you're a disabled person, is unnecessarily convoluted and difficult - it's a struggle for disabled people, their families and carers to get it right -- in particular with regard to accessibility and getting reasonable insurance cover. So, there is always a demand for this sort of event.

Get Around Guide: In your opinion, what is the state of travel for people with disabilities in the UK?
Start: I think the state of travel for disabled people is improving but far from satisfactory. I think more of the mainstream companies could benefit from attending an event such as ours -- a sizeable proportion of the population is disabled and to exclude them from your planning is bad business and bad PR.

Get Around Guide: Anything else you think we should know ...?
Start: We are floating the idea of a regular holiday brochure - perhaps exhibitors past and present, and the many contacts I've built up could subscribe, pay a yearly fee and have a space to advertise and promote their products.

Kudos to The Mersey Neurological Trust for the foresight to host this event and to Danny Start for his cooperation with Get Around Guide.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Feeling trapped, but determined

Bronwyn Millard fears new policies of Quantas Airlines regarding transporting certain types of wheelchairs will effectively confine her son, Shane, to his hometown. She's determined to find a solution. Says Millard in this ABC News Online article: "Shane's traveled six times before on Qantas and there's never been a problem. It's just a work health safety thing and I'd like to know why they brought it in to start with and what is my son supposed to do?" Qantas says the restrictions on three types of aircraft are needed because they cannot be loaded in the upright position and to protect staff from injury.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Don't get out much eh?

UC Berkely senior Bryan Goodwin, a history major, had these observations about gettting around in London. He found English public transportation, except the Underground, more accessible than in the states. But he also observed in this UCBerkelyNews.com article that he rarely saw other people in wheelchairs during his year studying abroad. "In England, disabled people don't go out, which culturally was very weird for me," he admitted. The rest of the article, outside of the travel observations, is well worth a read by the way if you'd enjoy a story about a person who, in his own words, is "concentrated, but ... not intrinsically different." (Photo of Bryan Goodwin by Bonnie Azab Powell, UC Berkeley)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Access to an icon

Big Ben. Yorkshire pudding. The Blackpool tramway. Icons of England all. But the future of the tramway is threatened, if it does not get funding for an extensive upgrade, which backers are saying must include features to make the line accessible to all.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Come together

The British and Irish Transport Ministers have announced a cooperative effort on accessible transportation. This 4NI story says the " Transport Group ... will focus on the area of Accessible Transport, sharing best practice and seeking opportunities to reduce the barriers that restrict travel opportunities for older people and people with disabilities."

Missed it?

The Mersey Neurological Trust hosted an exhibition on travel for people with disabilities yesterday. Exhibitors promoted various accessible destinations and packages -- including Disability Snowsport, The Beatles Story and Accessible Travel. The group also hosted such an event in 2003.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Getting it wrong

Should a passenger with a disability have to give notice ahead of time just to to take a commuter route train? David Griffiths, chief executive of disabled advocacy group ECAS doesn't think so. Especially grating to Griffiths was that on some First ScotRail lines a wheelchair user would have to occupy the space that the bike rack ordinarily does. To accommodate the wheelchair the rack has to be removed, which requires tools, hence the request for notice. "It makes me angry as it is totally wrong. The wheelchair space should be free at all times. It is completely morally wrong that a cyclist comes first," Griffiths said. "Other trains don't share their bike rack space with wheelchair users. Disabled people are meant to be inclusive in our society but here they are being put alongside bikes. Its outrageous." A First ScotRail spokesman said the rail company did not discriminate, but emphasized the advance notice request and suggested it was standard in the industry. "Our customers take precedence over cycles, which will be removed for wheelchair users," the spokesman said. I'm with Griffiths. Needing to make advance notice to use commuter transportation doesn't count as accessible.