Thursday, November 30, 2006

Branson offers to fly Hawking to the stars

British billionaire Richard Branson said he is ready to accomodate well-known physicist Stephen Hawking on a sub-orbitatal space flight on his new Virgin Galactic venture.
Branson sounds committed to accommodating other disabled passengers too.
Why can this be done for a space craft and still have regular old air travel be so difficult? (Photo by Allan Kilgour via

NJ Transit sued for 'dising' disabled riders

NY Transit is being sued by three riders with disabilities for various alleged behavior, including not allowing or hassling a rider with a guide dog, repeatedly not providing a transition ramp between the train to the platform, refusing to pick-up or lower lifts and some verbal nastiness as well. "We were forced to file lawsuits to publicize these problems because NJ Transit has to stand up and do something," Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, New Jersey Citizen Action director, said.
For what it's worth, I personally experienced some similar problems on NJ Transit a couple of years ago. On one train, the conductor knew that they had one of those plates to bridge the gap between the train and the platform, but he didn't know where it was. We pulled our son in his wheelchair across the gap instead. Clearly, as a passenger who used a wheelchair, our son was a inconvenience for the crew. Another conductor wasn't sure which stops had ramps for getting off the train. We knew. We researched it at the NJ Transit Web site (there were only three on the whole line I believe).
Since then, I've been harping that more people with disabilities need to ride NJ Transit. It seemed like passengers with disabilities just were not a common enough experience for their staff for them to have their act together, was my analysis. But Bob Westreich, counsel for New Jersey Citizen Action has a different take: "Our goal is to make it as expensive and embarrassing for NJ Transit for failing to take action to retrain drivers. NJ Transit uses the right words and has the right policies. The problem is they do not take these incidents seriously."
I think Westrich nailed it. How else do you explain a transit service that has all this accessibility info on their website, yet conductors can't find the ramp or know which stations someone in a wheelchair can get off at? Staff haven't been trained because it's not viewed as important enough.
Thanks to this lawsuit, I look forward to a better transit experience next time I'm in New Jersey. (Photo of NJ Transit accessible light rail from

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Harrington defends preboarders

Candy Harrington had a dead on post at Barrier Free Travels, regarding preboarding aircraft. She was reacting to a complaint about preboarders holding up others from getting off the planes with their baggage struggles etc. Here's a key quote from Candy's argument: "So until the airlines start screening out the stupid passengers, the rest of the world can just wait for a few slow walkers."
Well said, indeed. (Plane interior photo by orchid via

First hand advice on airports, car rentals

Katja at Broken Clay offers some good tips for surviving an airport with a wheelchair and smoothing out car rental. When it comes to advice, here's nothing like someone who's been there. (Photo by Stuart Whitmore, Johnny Pixel Productions, via

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Book can help you hit Healthy Highways

I'm trying to eat better. But one of the pitfalls for me is a trip. It seems like it's tough to eat well and eat conveniently on the road. On recent trips, my wife and I have taken a few steps to better eating while traveling. One, we're eating at the hotel free breakfast spread. That usually includes fruit or cereal or a bagel or something that's a lot better than hitting McDonald's for a bacon, egg, cheese, bacon, egg, cheese, bacon and bacon biscuit (hold the biscuit). We also have been packing a lunch on long drive days, which also gives you more control. Now Nikki and David Goldbeck's book Healthy Highways might help us to take it to the next level. The Goldbecks have put together a guide of healthy eating throughout the US. And each entry includes accessibility info.
(Peppers photo courtesy of

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Wright way might help you find the right place

New to the task of planning a trip for someone with a disabilities? These two articles offer both some more general and some site specific advice from Steve Wright and Heidi Johnson Wright.
I admire their turning lemons into lemonade type of outlook. It's easy to become discouraged by the need to check out accessibility down to the umpteenth detail. Instead of dwelling on the negative, the Wrights call this "finding an unexpected treasure" that "makes travel magical for everyone." Great attitude.
(Photo of the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the destinations recommended by the Wrights, by Darren Hillock)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Are airlines getting worse for travelers with disabilities?

"Training for handling disabled travelers fell short of U.S. requirements or airlines' own policies at 12 of 15 carriers studied," reports a recent article. The report referenced in the quote is an audit of US airlines conducted by the US Department of Transportation and released Nov. 21.
The article suggests airlines used to be better in helping passengers with disabilities. It cited a U.S. audit in 2001 that found airlines ``performed well with respect to this provision.''
What do your experiences tell you? Is the training of US airlines personnel worse than it used to be? Leave a comment. (Photo courtesy of

Happy Thanksgiving

(Turkey photo by Malinda Welte via

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robocars a reality?

Will cars that virtually drive themselves someday help travelers, perhaps especially those with disabilities, get around places they do not know well? Yes, if those entering the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency Urban Challenge have their way.
I can see great potential in this. Most of the problem with driving a vehicle, if you have a disability, is in addressing the controls, even if they're adapted. That would go away if you just had to let the car know where to go. (Photo by Taliesin via

Monday, November 20, 2006

Flybe honored for accomodating travelers with disabilities

Flybe, a UK low-cost airline, has been recognized for exceptional service to the traveler with disabilities. Southampton Centre for Independent Living cited Flybe's "successfully promoting disability equality across its network of routes and putting into place systems that make air travel as convenient as possible for all." Apparently, part of Flybe's success with accommodating all passengers is use of the Embraer 195 jet.
It's a pleasure to highlight an airline that makes travel for people with disabilities easier rather than more difficult than necessary for a change. (Photo of Embraer 195 in flight with Flybe colors courtesy of Embraer)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wheelchair accessible taxis to debut in King Co. Washington

King County, Washington is implementing a trial accessible taxi service with lowered floor minivans. The demonstration project aims to:
  • Assess the need for accessible taxicabs and estimate how many may be necessary to provide responsive service;
  • Test the economic viability of privately owned and operated wheelchair accessible taxicabs that can provide on-demand service to private-pay passengers at standard taxi rates; and
  • Evaluate the operation of the side-loading vehicles, the dispatch system, and other logistical issues.
More accessible cabs is a good thing. But I hope initial service is good enough that it is practical to use so that when the analysis is done, the need for continuing and enhancing the service is clear. So if you're in King County, call an accessible cab. (Photo by Mary Thorman via

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Obese, disabled passenger fares before Canadian panel

The Canadian Transportation Agency is hearing testimony on matters pertinent to travelers with disabilities and those who require an additional seat because of their size. Advocates are arguing that Canada's one person one fare doctrine should be extended to airlines. Agreement with that stand would have a caregiver for a traveler with disabilities be able to receive a reduced fare. Other advocates are also arguing the obese should be able to access an additional seat at no extra charge. A ruling is expected early next year.
On the caregiver issue, I think a reduced or even free fare is especially just when airlines, as some around the world do, suggest or even insist every disabled person needs a companion. Of course such a blanket requirement is silly. Many people with disabilities are perfectly capable of traveling alone. Where it exists, I can only assume that a requirement for an attendant is really an effort to keep people with disabilities off flights as much as possible.
The obesity question seems to be gaining prominence of late. Personally, I think needing another seat because of your size should be accommodated without additional cost. I just don't think people are going to take advantage of this unless they need it. Seems to me that obesity definitely could be a disability. Remember, seat size is not some given driven by anything other than the airlines' desire to maximize profit. Such is the way of business, of course. But to act like seats too small to accommodate some larger passengers is almost beyond the control of the airlines is disingenuous. Letting a larger passenger use two seats at no extra charge seems to me to be a reasonable compromise. The airlines can keep maximum seating capacity for the majority of the time. Sometimes, they'd have to give up a seat to a larger passenger.

By the way, have you voted in our poll on whether the obese should be accommodated as disabled by airlines? You'll find it to the right of this post. Or leave a comment. Or both.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The downs and ups of access and the Belfast airport

As I was reading this item on a woman's complaint about getting a ticket at the Belfast airport, I admit I thought we only hear the negative when it comes to accomodation. That's one of the flaws of all media - heck of human nature. We gravitate to the negative. In this case, this woman was relating how she got a ticket for having a vehicle stand to load her and her husband's stuff after a trip. Her husband uses a wheelchair. Many able-bodied people did the same, but weren't ticketed, she wrote. But then at the end she mentions: "On a brighter note, Belfast generally treat their disabled passengers with dignity." I am glad she added that. It was one small blow for those who do the right thing too. (Photo of loading at an airport, not necessarily the incident described in the post, by xenia antunes via

Monday, November 13, 2006

More on Dive Pirates, Brac Reef Beach Resort

I posted on the Brac Reef Beach Resort recently and its work with the Dive Pirates Foundation. Here's another recent article with a little more info about the resort and the pirates. This sounds like exciting work and a nice destination. (Photo by Ryan Gallagher via

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dubai announces moves that should help disabled tourists

Dubai continues to make strides in improving accessibility for tourists with disabilities. Changes announced to public transportation and access this week are aimed at the resident population, but also should help tourists. And Dubai has a recent history of trying to encourage accessible tourism as acknowledged in previous Get Around Guide posts here and here.
Dubai is calling itself "the caring city." They certainly have shown more caring on accessible tourism than many other places. (Photo of Dubai scene by Tony AL Khoury via

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Original Tour to intro accessible buses

A prominent London tour company plans to introduce 10 new fully wheelchair accessible buses throughout next year. “An open top bus ride is a great way to see London, whether you live in the capital or are just visiting," The Original Tour commercial director Colin Atkins said. "I believe that the new Volvo buses will not only give our passengers a better sightseeing experience but they will be cleaner and quieter and offer a long overdue facility to customers with disabilities.” Smart move on their part. Why exclude some potential customers? (Bus photo courtesy of The Original Tour)

VMI announces Honda Odyssey conversion

We have a big ol' full-size conversion van that we use on family trips. It accommodates a wheelchair lift well and it gets the job done for our family of five. But it's a pain to drive, frankly. I look forward to the day we can retreat to a mini-van when the family gets smaller. On that front, there's some good news as leading maker of accessible vehicles VMI has announced their first accessible Honda Odyssey adaptation. I have a Honda motor on my lawn mower. Now maybe someday I can drive a Honda too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

B and B in Butler PA has accessible room

Planning to visit Butler, Pennsylvania? The Locust Brook Lodge Bed & Breakfast has an accessible room, reports

Wheelchair users causing delays for buses. It's a good thing!

The Toledo, Ohio bus system seems to be facing a number of challenges in providing good, reliable service. One of the factors blamed by system officials? Riders in wheeelchairs. " Growing numbers of wheelchair passengers using the mainline buses are another factor, James Gee, TARTA general manager told the Toledo Blade. While some slack is built into route schedules to accommodate them, he said loading or unloading a wheelchair takes up to five minutes, which can add up fast."
This is a positive development really. Not because Toledo buses are getting slowed down, but because enough wheelchair users are taking the bus for it to have an impact -- any kind of impact. Too often one of the rationals used to attack accessible public transportation is that no one is using it. No the case in Toledo apparently.
Sounds like Toledo needs to champion the development of a more universally accessible bus.
(Bus image by Kenn Kiser via

Monday, November 06, 2006

Group works for divers with disabilities

The Brac Reef Beach Resort and the Dive Pirates Foundation are working together to accommodate trips by divers with disabilities. They can work with a wide range of disabilities and their next trip is scheduled for May 19-26, 2007. (Photo of diver courtesy of Dive Pirates Foundation)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Better access sought for downtown Los Alamos

If you're traveling to Los Alamos, you might get some tips on what to expect in the downtown as far as accessibility from this article -- unfavorable slopes and narrow walkways being among the issues. But at least the local government seems open to changing. "I am a big supporter of walkability," said Council Chair Mike Wheeler after a tour of his town's street scape with some accessibility advocates. "It seems we have some work to do."
So maybe if you're not going to Los Alamos for a while, things might be better. (Generic, not necessarily in Los Alamos cracked concrete photo by Andrea Church via morgueFile)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Drivers object to proposed accessible cab rules in UK

"A lot of people who are in wheelchairs expect to be able to travel in their wheelchairs, rather than have to get in and out of it," said Edele Waters, a government representative at a meeting in the UK on new cab rules.
But fulfilling that expectation was seen by some independent cab operators at that same meeting as threatening their livelihood. They object to a proposed law requiring 10 percent of a fleet to be accessible. When you have only one cab, well, that means that cab needs to be accessible.
"This is discrimination against individual drivers," said a spokesperson for the drivers. "We are being totally ripped off."
The drivers say demand for accessible cabs at the cabstand is extremely low. But the low observation is a red herring. Why would wheelchair users demand accessible cabs at the cabstand when they know they are so rare? (Photo of cab in London courtesy of

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wanted: Accessibility info for Beijing

Can any GA Guide readers help out jullie2006 with some advise on getting around Beijing, China with a power wheelchair? She and her daughter are planning a trip there next March. (Photo of Beijing street scene by xpistwv via

Beach campground looking out for those with disabilities

I never knew there was a Cape Lookout in Orgeon. I was familiar with the Cape Lookout in North Carolina. This article reports that the state park at Cape Lookout, Oregon has two camp sites accomodating the disabled. That's pretty vague so check it our before you go. At other Oregon state parks, there appear to be these cool looking accessible yurts.

More debate on larger airline passengers

The large airline passenger discussion is continuing. Robert S. Wieder at CalorieLab Counter News posted on the topic today. He doesn't delve much into the disability aspect, but he offers two solutions: bigger seat sections (something short of first class in price) and bigger passenger flights. (Photo from