Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Big money for station still doesn't bring access

"It is not modern thinking to completely exclude disabled people."
That's a statement from Sian Vasey, director of Action for Equality in Ealing, UK -- a statement that most regular readers of this blog no doubt agree with. But apparently it's not so obvious back in Vasey's home area, where some 400,000 pounds (almost $800,000 US) has been designated for improvements at a rail station. Incredibly, no improvements to the non-existent access features for people with disabilities at the station will be covered by the big bucks. Vasey is torqued off. "If there is money to spend, then something should be done about disabled access, there has never been any interest in improving it," Vasey said. The reason? Cost, says the rail line. Access would be too costly.
Wrong answer! (Photo by kettu via

Travel by those with disabilites can be fraught with peril but still worth it

Clive Gilbert of BBC News is a wheelchair user. So his article on travel by people with disabilities is particularly insightful and nails many points. Read the comments too, if you dare. But I want to encourage you to make the effort and take the trip. It may be more work, but it's just as rewarding -- maybe more so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New San Francisco access guide available

If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to get the new access guide available from the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau. The 48-page book compiled by Access Northern California covers a load of San Francisco travel pertinent destinations and resources. And it's free.
(Photo of Golden Gate Bridge by David Ellis via

Disabled community not consulted on new India air regs

Scott Rains posted recently on India's proposed Civil Aviation Requirements and amendments. Scott points out that clearly the disabled community were not consulted in formulating standards. Now what was the point of that?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Really big handicapped parking at truck stops?

I certainly have used handicapped parking spots at truck stops while on road trips. We need the landing area to get our son and his wheelchair out of our conversion van. But I must say I never considered the need for handicapped parking spots for big rigs.
(Photo by Mary K. Baird via

AirAsia improves accessibility on its flights

AirAsia has made some moves to better accommodate travelers with disabilities. Acquisition of two "Ambulifts" will eliminate the need to carry non ambulatory passengers onto flights. Bathrooms on planes have been improved as well, says this e-travel Blackboard article. And imagine this: AirAsia is a "low fare, no frills." They should serve as an example to other airlines that hide behind their discount business model as an excuse for not being accessible to those with disabilities.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Chicago airports to improve communication for hard of hearing reports that both Chicago airports plan to install kiosks aimed at improving service for travelers with disabilities. The key feature will be "video relay for deaf and hard-of-hearing travelers."

EU to airlines: No discrimination against passengers with disabilities

Take that Ryanair and your ilk! The EU has passed legislation "that will prevent airlines from refusing to accept disabled people onto flights," says the Harrow Times. The article acknowledges the inspiration came from celebrated cases such as Ryanair kicking off nine visually impaired passengers because there were too many disabled people on one flight. While your first instinct may be to just get by without a commotion this law shows sometimes making a fuss pays dividends -- eventually. (photo via

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The hard way down: Part 3 of a report on Monticello

Having enjoyed excellent and accessible tours of Monticello's main house (see part 1) and the area of the estate where slaves lived (part 2). The next step of our journey after leaving Monticello was to drive to the Outer Banks. But before we could do that we had to get down the mountain. We didn't realize what an adventure and exertion that would be after our otherwise flawless visit.
There were still a few other tasks to attend to at Monticello before we departed. Like, a little souvenir shopping. Then a short walk over to the bus stop, where we figured we'd take the lift equipped bus back down, as we had taken it up. First bus wasn't the lift bus. Second bus wasn't the lift bus either. I asked that driver whether the lift bus was running. He said maybe. It was a hot day, and apparently they were having some difficulty keeping the buses from overheating as they made their multiple trips up the mountain. The lift bus was in particularly bad shape, he reported. Not really knowing what else to do, we decided to wait for one more bus, which was the lift bus. Rejoice!. But not for long. As we positioned ourselves near the back, the driver informed us that the lift on the bus wasn't working. He offered to take me down and then have me follow him up the mountain in our van, but hearing about the overheating, I was reluctant to do that. He also offered the walking trail, which was about a third of a mile. Hey that sounded good. My wife and I are regular exercise walkers, so that distance seemed like nothing. Remembering we were on a mountaintop, we asked, is it difficult? The driver said seniors use it all the time. Well then let's go!
The decision to hoof it down did have one advantage. It took us by the site of Jefferson's grave, which we had not seen earlier. My youngest daughter noted that the grave had a tall pylon on the top, sort of like a mini Washington Monument. (We went to DC a couple of summers ago). She wondered what was up with dead presidents and pointy graves. (Yes, the Washington Monument isn't a grave marker, but you get the idea).
Seeing the whole discussion with the shuttle driver concerned accommodating our son's wheelchair, I'm thinking many seniors may take the path, but the driver never had. The path did have a couple of sets of stairs. These weren't too difficult for us to roll down, with two people guiding the chair. I think there were about six steps in each case. But when we left the graveyard, we found the real obstacle. A grade that made just holding back the chair from rolling uncontrollably down the rest of the path a major effort. I initially tried to do it myself, but later my wife, Karen, grabbed on too, which was a big help. I have a feeling the forest scenery would be very pleasant under the right circumstances, but I was mostly just trying to hang on and fight gravity for a third of a mile. When we got down to where we could see the visitors center, we paused for a rest and decided to take a photo. A passerby kindly offered to take a photo, which was nice because we seldom have photos of all of us. She got the pic, but dropped the camera twice, maybe because I had handed it to her and I was dripping with sweat. Luckily none of look as disgusting in the photo as we felt.
Getting down to the parking lot, we had a tasty lunch of sandwiches, hot dogs and giant chocolate chip cookies with cold, cold, lemonade and sodas at the little lunch stand there. Then we loaded up and headed for the beach (sweet car AC blasting), better educated about both Thomas Jefferson and taking accessibility for granted.

Photo 1: The photo a kind stranger snapped of us after our sweaty walk down from the mountaintop. The scenery looks really nice, but all I remember is trying to hang on.
Photo 2: Here's our favorite souvenir of the day -- a Jefferson bust frig magnet. We also picked up a Declaration of Independence replica complete with replica quill pen and a humorous children's book about some of the founding fathers, "John, Paul, George and Ben" by Lane Smith, made all the more humorous to us adults for the winking Beatles references. (Photo by Darren Hillock)