So…I’m still here!

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I’m sorry folks, I know I promised to write a big bad blog this year, but although I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m sorry to say that I’m still here and am still planning to do it. I STILL haven’t sorted out my complaint about an airline treating my partner like doo-doo, just because she has a disability. This is in part, due to the fact that it involves the SPECIAL company who arrange holidays for people with disabilities, the travel company who they booked our holiday with, the airline who that travel company seconded our flight to, even though they have hundreds of their own planes and the people who provided ‘assistance’ by throwing my partner around like an old sack-o’-spuds and leaving her actually sitting atop one of the seatbelt holders! They are all currently passing me from pillar to post and not accepting ANY responsibility. So anyway, if I EVER get around to doing this promised super-blog post, it will probably be about how, not that my partner is disabled, but how the whole world IS disabled. The more I look around, the more things I see that are made into barriers to keep disabled people OUT. We have rules now that say any new buildings must be made accessible to all, but so many companies have found ways AROUND those rules, by building their places into awkward shapes and putting ‘dividers’ about the place, to stop wheelchairs from getting anywhere near. Like one restaurant I know that has fixed seating by all the tables and you are not allowed to put a wheelchair on the end of the table as it’s ‘against the fire safety rules’ and they are legally allowed to (and do) enforce that rule. So in other words, NO wheelchairs are allowed in! Although it’s illegal to discriminate. Work that one out if you can!

WHOOPS! I nearly started writing a post right there and then. Sorry! Hope to see you all soon!

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The sky’s the limit!

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I chose the picture of the young lady above, as she represents a bit of this weeks subject, RULES! A couple of years ago, I travelled with my partner on a trip to places afar, for a short break. Always wanting to ‘do the right thing’ (stupidly of course), I asked the lady at the airport information desk if it was OK for me to use my camera within the terminal, or outside or even on the plane. She informed me that I could take pictures of my partner and myself, as long as we were against a blank wall only and not showing any part of the terminal building, that could identify it as being an airport. She also said that if I did take pictures of anything else, inside or out, my camera would be ‘confiscated’ and probably not ever returned! I asked why that was and she just said “Well you did ask”. I noticed people all over the airport pointing their cameras and mobiles all over the place, taking pictures of this and that and not following any such ‘rules’. I thought it was a bit rude of her to talk to me like that, when I had asked so politely and felt sure that she just didn’t like the look of me! As everyone else was getting away with it. I see that it is getting more difficult to do exactly what I was asking to do, due to terrorism these days. However, what I probably would have had pictures of, would have been a few walls and seats, maybe the odd poster or two, which were only adverts and were all over the country anyway and even on TV! Also, I may have caught a shot or two, of say a Boeing 737 or possibly an Airbus A320 and they are ‘top secret’ aircraft which no-one has ever seen before, aren’t they? Cynical? Who, me? Well maybe a bit.

Also, the rules aboard aircraft are very strict, but again, are mostly ignored. You should have your mobile or camera either turned off, or on ‘flight mode’ or any other such device that can send or receive things, until you land I suppose. I noticed on my most recent trip though, that no-one takes the slightest notice of these rules and people were simply ‘covering up’ their mobiles, while playing games or sending messages as the cabin crew walked past, in the same way that naughty schoolchildren cover up their funny drawing of the size of their teacher’s nose etc. You aren’t supposed to film the take-off or landing of the airplane either, as this would mean having the device switched on, when it should be switched off, or so I have been told. I see however, that there is one chap who seems to fly everywhere in the whole world and even has a YouTube channel, where he posts videos of all of these flights! (There are also thousands of other such videos, by many different people). Yet he obviously hasn’t been to my local airport ever, as they would simply confiscate his camera and throw him in jail! Or so I have been led to believe. (I think the rules aboard aircraft are meant to stop airplanes crashing, due to all these signals interfering with instruments or something. I think if planes were crashing and people dying from it, then MAYBE they would do as they are told)? So maybe that’s just another ‘line’ they feed us. Maybe.

I can understand that we must have rules and I (boringly) follow most of them. We don’t want terrorists getting hold of any secret information about a small, regional airport now, do we? I’m sure there could even be something that they shouldn’t see. But if these ARE strict rules that must be obeyed at all times, then WHY aren’t they being upheld and adhered to?

On a slightly lighter note, On the earlier trip of I which I spoke, my partner who is a wheelchair user, had been told to wait at the side of the bit where everyone has to go through the sort of X-ray machine. Having been put right in view of one of the observers screens, she was having a rare old time apparently and told me later that, when people pass through it, she could see an awful lot more of each person than you are led to believe! These machines seemingly leave nothing to the imagination as, when I went to retrieve her, having had my ‘go’ in this machine, she had quite a red face! I just hope that there aren’t any weirdos applying for this job, as they would be getting paid for ‘peeping’ as it were! The other implications of this are many and varied, but I don’t even like to think about them!

Oh well, must fly. Please have all passports, boarding passes and selfie-sticks at the ready!

Disabling Holiday travel

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“Travel both broadens the mind and loosens the bowels”. So sayeth my partner. I think the second bit comes from the differing choice of foods that you find abroad. Some spicy and some not. But it’s the travel bit I want to address here. My partner Sue, is disabled. She is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair, that she is confined to. Or to explain it better, she is paralysed from the chest down (from T4, for those of you in the know). This is roughly half-way down her chest. So she can use her arms and can lift and move herself a bit, but not much. So when we travel by air, while everyone else is heading on down the tunnel, from the airport straight into the plane, Sue usually has to go in a funny truck, that lifts up and down and somehow attaches to the other side of the plane from the tunnel. From there, she is lifted from her wheelchair into an ‘aisle-chair’, which is more like a sack-barrow with a seat on it. She is then strapped onto this thing, to move just a few yards from the plane door, to where she will be sitting. Usually this is either the front left or right aisle seat. This last time, on a ‘737’, due to differing safety laws, she had to sit in the fourth row instead of the first and in a window seat, instead of the usual aisle one. We took this ‘safety’ thing to mean the safety of all the able-bodied passengers. Needless to say, she was left in an uncomfortable and distressed state, due in part to the (obviously un-researched) problem of getting her into that position on the plane and also due to the cabin crew having no idea of a disabled persons needs at all! But travelling with a disabled person is something even I, as her partner, had no idea about until I tried it. You know when you see a ‘special offer’ in the travel agents? ‘Seven days in the Med, for only £3.50’! Well, Sue has never and could never go on one of those, because, as able-bodied people can just ‘flop anywhere’ in any room on any bed, again, she can’t. She needs a special hoist to lift her onto and off of the bed and also into a shower-chair (that’s a wheelchair, that can be used for showering in), which needs to be used in a wet-room. Which is basically a room like a whole shower cubicle, so that everything in it can get wet. She also can’t use a shoe-box sized room. This can be handy, in that you get a much bigger room to move around in, but we would prefer to be able to use a normal room, like everyone else! Staying on the subject of the room, one of the reasons she’s only been able to travel again recently is, that with her condition of being unable to just use ‘any room’, If her room was given away to anyone else, as rooms sometimes are, due to double-booking etc., the only option Sue has, is to go straight back home on the next available flight! No way to spend a holiday. Her most simple wish, to be able to walk on the beach with me, hand-in-hand, is one that can never be granted. Also we are misunderstood sometimes, as occasionally, people make the mistake of thinking that she gets ‘special’ treatment, by getting all these ‘added extras’. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as the only special help she gets, is just so that she can live as normal a life as possible. Even with all this help, that ‘normal’ doesn’t even begin to approach the normal of everyone else, as everything takes longer to do and sometimes needs three people just to help her achieve it! One case that comes to mind, is when we first moved into our present home. A lady had lived here before, who, although old, was perfectly mobile and had an ordinary bathroom and shower. When ringing to ask how much longer it would take to convert our bathroom for Sue’s use, the lady on the phone said “Well I hope you appreciate the amount of money we’re spending on you to make this happen”! Sue simply replied “I’m not asking for anything special though, just the right to have a wash, like everyone else”. The lady thought for a moment, then became a bit ‘nicer’ when she understood, everything happened a lot quicker after that. That’s the main problem we have, if people could understand disability and the needs of those with it, like making somewhere accessible for instance, then all our lives would be so much simpler. Back on the subject of travel though, think about how you get on and off a plane so easily. We wish we could do that, but this most recent trip of ours (a two-hour flight, in both directions), took six hours in total! Having to be put on the plane first and having to wait for assistance at the other end, meant sitting around for another hour upon arrival, before we could even begin to move and having to do it all again the same, upon our return. I think next year, may well be a ‘stay-cation’!