GLOBAL ACCESS NEWS TRAVEL E-ZINE

VOLUME IX, NUMBER 7, July 2008

Copyright © 2008, Global Access News

http://www.globalaccessnews.com/

 

Please note: Any Internet links mentioned in this e-zine were verified as functioning as of the date listed at the top of this zine. However, web sites and e-mail addresses change frequently, so changes may have occurred after the above date.

 

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Welcome to the July 2008 issue of the Global Access News Travel E-Zine. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to write us and share your travel tips and experiences.

 

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CONTENTS

 

1. SOUTH AFRICA WARNING

2. TOKYO: INACCESSIBLE TRAIN STATIONS

3. BRITAIN: KEW GARDENS’ TREETOP WALKWAY

4. NOT GOING QUIETLY

5. FRANCE: DORDOGNE, LE GRAND BOST

6. GLACIER BAY, ALASKA ADVENTURE

7. QUEEN MARY 2 VOYAGE

 

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1. SOUTH AFRICA WARNING

 

Hilton Purvis and Loretta Jakubiec are residents of South Africa and have frequently shared their travels with Global Access News.

 

Recently, they submitted the following warning about safety in their nation. They believe that it is becoming negligent to encourage foreign visitors to tour parts of their country because violent crime is spreading rapidly, even into the national parks, and this latest incident shows that disabled people are vulnerable. Global Access News urges all readers to proceed cautiously if they are considering a visit to South Africa.

 

Attack on disabled visitor to Silvermine Nature Reserve (Cape, South Africa)

 

In June three visitors to the Silvermine Nature Reserve in the Table Mountain National Park of South Africa were attacked by two men, armed with knives, which resulted in one visitor being stabbed. The attack took place during daylight hours, on the accessible boardwalk trail circumnavigating the Silvermine Dam. One of the group of visitors was confined to a wheelchair.

 

 The police were called, and arrests made, but it is disturbing to note that the security guard posted at the dam fled the scene, and was also subsequently arrested and questioned in connection with the attack. That this security guard might well have watched this group exit their vehicle, and load the wheelchair, knowing they faced attack is frightening. It has subsequently come to light that there have been numerous attacks, and narrow escapes, on visitors to Silvermine.

 

That the criminal element now sees fit to attack disabled people is a sign we, as a nation, have truly hit rock bottom. A browse through the South African National Parks website Discussion Forums reveals that other reserves are experiencing increased crime levels as well. I visit the Silvermine Nature Reserve regularly with my wife; it is one of the few nature areas in the Cape Peninsula which is wheelchair accessible. Clearly no longer.

 

South African lovers of nature and the outdoors are seeing their parks becoming increasingly dangerous, with little being done to stop it. A “walk” on the mountain is now less about relaxation and fresh air, and more about caution and alertness. Sad times indeed.

 

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2. TOKYO: INACCESSIBLE SHIBUYA & SHINJUKU TRAIN STATIONS

 

Darren Campeau, an able-bodied traveler, submitted the following account of his experiences using the Shibuya and Shinjuku train stations in Tokyo with his wife and 10-month-old baby.

 

My wife, a Japanese national, and I just returned from Tokyo, where we had a nice trip most of the time, but often thought of a disabled friend's daily plight as we attempted to wheel our 10-month-old baby around Tokyo in her stroller. I once lived as a student in Tokyo, and I was always impressed with the extensive subway and train service. With a little study of the route map, it was easy to navigate and the most reliable and convenient transit system that I ever experienced. But that was when I was a young man without any consideration or need of ramps or elevators.

 

Jump ahead twenty years and 'struggle' is the key phrase I would use when describing the mish-mash layouts of the complicated train and subway stations. Some private train lines (serving the suburban areas) had elevators at most stations, but when connecting to the main stations (in our case Shibuya and Shinjuku) to transfer to the major train system (run by the government's Japan Rail) the grapple began. Dealing with an 18 lb. child, 12 lb. stroller and a few shopping bags isn't a severe hardship for two people to carry on stairs, but it would be an impossible experience for anyone dependent on a continuous system of ramps and elevators. If you go out the wrong exit point (and there's always many to chose from), you can be faced with twenty or thirty stairs (no other options) and an endless mega-swarm of people chaotically headed in all directions. You would have to buy another ticket to get back into the station gate and find the correct hodge-podge path to elevator your way out (then you'd have to explain why you supposedly didn't use the ticket). It was frequent that we found ourselves taking an elevator from the train platform to another level's platform to then crossover to another platform, walk to the other end to catch another elevator to get to the station level. And that's not necessarily street level. Often we'd connect to a department store basement and use the store's elevators and hope that we could exit the store without needing to step down to the street.

 

Another interesting aspect to all of this is that no one of authority, i.e., station agents, info booth attendants, and elevator girls really seemed to be sure if any path would be a continuous roll. And often their information was wrong or included a flight of stairs.

 

The most ironic experience was to follow the zigzag maze of directional signs to an elevator that would sit atop a landing - four steps up, and no ramp! I think someone missed the point of having an elevator! I read an article in the Japan Times that there is an advocate group of disabled people that demonstrates regularly at Shinjuku (one of the older and main stations that sees a million commuters per day) to pressure the government to build ramps and add more elevators, but a key bureaucrat told them that "they have a bad attitude and that they need to change it" (!). But it was easy to see the reason for their frustration. We didn't see many single moms with a stroller; it seemed they traveled with someone to assist or stayed away. And we definitely didn't see anyone in a wheelchair at the Tokyo JR stations, although on a train trip to the mountainous area of Gunma we didn't have any access problems at any of the suburban or rural stations where elevators were in reasonable proximity and station exits were less complicated (Takasaki and Omiya).

 

Oddly, groping of women is taken as an old but more pressing issue on the overcrowded trains. So at rush hour times the last three cars are now reserved for women and the remainder for the groping male herds. I made the mistake of getting on the wrong car at the wrong time and got many shocked looks for about three stops, until someone finally told me that the car was for women only. I exited the car and ran to the next grope-car and arrived at my destination unscathed. It seems that with enough squeaking and complaining, the wheels do get oiled.

 

Some semi-useful (no discussion of the stations' accessibility problems) links I found for getting around Tokyo (post-trip) with accessibility maps to order in advance: http://accessible.jp.org/tokyo/en/useful/map.html

 

I have to say that upon arriving at Tokyo's Narita Airport, we were made to feel very welcome when we were whisked to the front of a very long immigration line to get our passports stamped. It seems the immigration officials keep an eye out for anyone with disabilities or families with young children. Having made the trip solo in the past, I knew that it have been a 60-90 minute wait. The airport was easy to get around, very well organized with many elevators, and connected to the train station where we caught a modern train to Tokyo. But after getting off the train the spottiness of the system quickly became apparent.

 

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3. BRITAIN: KEW GARDENS’ TREETOP WALKWAY

 

We extend Kudos to London’s Kew Gardens for including wheelchair access in their design for the new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway. Disabled visitors need not sit at the bottom of the 108 step staircase leading to the walkway. Instead they can board the elevator and start exploring the 200 metres walkway through the many chestnut trees and catch glimpses of woodpeckers, butterflies and other wildlife. Learn more about the walkway and view photos at http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/gardens/story/0,,2281770,00.html

 

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4. NOT GOING QUIETLY

We admire the wit and spirited writing of traveler, Eric Doran, of Ireland, who wrote to share his new web site, Not Going Quietly at www.notgoingquietly.com His site features travel reports to Italy, India, Egypt and South Africa, along with relevant information, contacts and tips for what to do and what to avoid.

 

According to Eric,” When you use a wheelchair, the world can seem suffocating small, so let’s use the net and start clocking some miles up!”

 

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5. FRANCE: DORDOGNE, LE GRAND BOST


A quadriplegic wheelchair user recommends Le Grand Bost holiday cottage in France’s Dordogne region (east of Bordeaux). Le Grand Bost offers a wheelchair accessible first-floor cottage featuring a roll in shower, living area, kitchen and bedroom. However, additional bedrooms are not accessible. Photos of the accommodations are available at
http://www.legrandbost.com/

The cottage is close to many villages and Ulysee is recommended for wheelchair accessible van rentals http://www.ulysse-transport.fr/english/accueil.php
 

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6. GLACIER BAY, ALASKA ADVENTURE

 

Scott Rains, well-known in the disabled community for his access advocacy and excellent blog, RollingRains.com, shares his accessible Alaska adventure at
http://www.globalaccessnews.com/glacier_bayrains08.htm

 

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7. QUEEN MARY 2 VOYAGE

 

Syd and June Burns, of Penrith, England, cruised the high seas in style aboard the Queen Mary 2. Excellent on-board access made their voyage a luxury, indeed. Share their voyage at http://www.globalaccessnews.com/queen_mary_voyageburns08.htm

 

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Global Access News welcomes your travel reports, tips and comments at clearpath@cox.net Thanks for sharing!

 

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