Thank you for (not) travelling with Deutsche Bahn

 

Yesterday I wanted to make my first reservation ever with Deutsche Bahn (the German railway). But I had to find out that still in 2016 it is more than complicated to travel by train when using a wheelchair.

 

Of course I’d read all the information on how to travel with reduced mobility on the website of Deutsche Bahn to be perfectly prepared. You have to call their mobility service when you need help to get in and off the train and/or if you have to change trains on your journey. And this service also books the wheelchair seats for you. I assumed that nowadays, in 2016, travelling would be much easier than it was 20 years ago… I was wrong.

 

My very bad idea was to first buy my tickets (like every other passenger) and then call their service hotline to ask for the mobility service.

 

Lady on the phone: „What!? You’ve already bought your tickets? That wasn’t a good idea as you should always call us first to make sure that there are still some wheelchair seats available!“ I asked myself why that wasn’t written on their homepage.

 

The woman was quite nice on the phone and she told me that the wheelchair seats for my chosen trains were unfortunately booked. She patiently checked all other possible trains and connections on that day for more than 45 minutes. But nothing – what a frustrating experience! The worst was that I’d bought these tickets for me and my friend as we had planned to travel together. The service assistant advised me to cancel them as we couldn’t take these trains without free seats.

 

Can you imagine that Deutsche Bahn offers only 2 wheelchair seats per train?!

 

After explaining that this would have been my first trip with Deutsche Bahn and that I had absolutely no idea of calling the mobility service before buying the tickets, she luckily transferred the call to her colleague who cancelled the tickets for free. Normally, you have to pay a fee of 17,50 Euros for each ticket cancelled. This favor was very kind!

 

But still I have to say that 2 wheelchair seats per train are simply not enough. Every human being, disabled or able-bodied, should have the possibility to take the train easily and spontaneously! In France taking the train is much easier than in Germany. I can go directly to the train station and take the next train whenever I want to. Without making any reservation before. The same thing in Japan (to be continued) and so many other countries. I have to say that I’m a little bit shocked as Germany is a well-developped country serving as role model for so many European neighbours. But accessibility of travelling by train is clearly a big point to improve!

 

PS: I guess I’ll risk my next attempt in 10 years ;-).
Meeting Andrea Krallinger

A day that changed my life

 

Today I’ll tell you about a very special photo project and how this project helped me to gain self-confidence by fully accepting me and my disabled body.

 

First of all I have to admit, that I’ve had a very bad image of myself. I have never seen myself neither as a “real” woman nor I thought of me being beautiful. My body was my weird-looking capsule, rolling around in a wheelchair. Often I even felt ashamed for my strange movements caused by my limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and for being in a wheelchair. I preferred to hide myself whenever possible to not attract more attention than usual. I had no self-confidence at all and didn’t feel good in my skin. There were times when I silently cried in my bed, asking myself why I was chosen to have this mean LGMD disease. But one day in 2012 would change everything …!

 

While I was reading a magazine of the German MD Association, my eyes stopped at a text saying “Participants for special photographic project wanted”. I don’t know why, but my inner voice told me to apply immediately. That’s how I got to know the German photographer Andrea Krallinger and her beautiful project “Ganz schön krank” (free trans. “pretty ill”). Andrea, having an invisible disability herself, took pictures of people with all kinds of disorders, focussing on their beauty – not on their faults. The photos of Andrea’s models were art printed are still being exhibited all over Germany and even abroad. Each art print is accompanied by a personal introduction, written by the model, describing briefly her/his life with a disability.

 

So, together with my brother I met Andrea in August 2012 on a wonderfully warm summer day. But actually, only one day before the appointment I wanted to cancel it! I was scared and I thought that I was not good enough for Andrea’s project. I felt very uncomfortable, I didn’t even have a clue how to dress. I was simply afraid to not fulfill  Andrea’s expectations… Luckily my brother insisted on going! And so we did! On our way to the meeting I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat a thing. We met Andrea in a train station. We had a great time together and got along very well – there was no need to be that nervous. Together, we discovered a nice little park where the shooting took place. Thanks to Andrea’s guidance and her reassuring words I overcame my shyness and suddenly I felt good in front of her camera. This was my first shooting-experience. Some days later, when Andrea sent me a link to my pictures, I couldn’t believe that this young, beautiful woman was me. For the very first time I saw my bright smile and my sparkling eyes. And for the very first time I saw my hidden beauty revealed.

 

 

Thanks to Andrea’s project, I received lots of mails by interesting people telling me that I had a very positive appearance and a beautiful smile. Thanks to her I made many new friends. Thanks to Andrea I met my love Xavier only two months after the shooting. Thanks to her I had the chance to do a photo shooting for wheelchair manufacturer Sunrise Medical.

Thanks to Andrea and her “Ganz schön krank” project I learned to truly accept myself as I am! There was and is no reason to hide my smile any longer. Today, in 2016, I am a confident and joyful woman on wheels. Thank you so much for everything you did, Andrea!

– LittleMissTurtle in the German TZ news
– LittleMissTurtle is “Ganz schön krank”