Boulders Beach Penguin Panorama

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony in a wheelchair

Boulders Beach – Home of the African Penguin

 

The Boulders Beach Penguin Colony is for sure a must see when in Cape Town! The African Penguins are so very cute! You can spend the whole day watching them! Discover the sweet waddling guys for yourself!

 

African Penguin at Boulders Beach

African Penguin

 

Some basic facts

Boulders Beach is located near Simon’s Town, about 45 km south of Cape Town. It is home to a colony of African Penguins since the early 1980’s. The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is an endangered species and is therefore very well protected in South Africa. Boulders Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park.

 

Penguins on Boulders Beach

Penguins hanging out on the beach – Mar 2017

 

Visiting the Penguin Colony with my brother

Visiting the Penguin Colony with my brother – Mar 2017

 

Penguin Couple

Couple of African Penguins – Mar 2017

 

Penguins on a rock

Rocky Mountains – Mar 2017

 

Penguins having a good time

Seems like they are having a good time – Mar 2017

 

Penguins caring for their babies

Taking care of their babies – Mar 2017

 

Accessibility

Wheelchair users can easily visit the Penguin Colony viewing area. In general you have to pay an entrance fee of 70 Rand for one adult (~5 EUR/USD). We still have no clue why, but we didn’t have to pay anything. There was no disability discount published. As soon as the guides at the entrance saw me, they opened the wheelchair entrance and let us in. While the wooden and slightly bumpy boardwalk to the penguin viewing area is fully wheelchair accessible, the swimming area itself is unfortunately not. But most importantly, there is also a huge wheelchair restroom with handle bars and an adult changing table.

 

Accessible boardwalk to the Penguin Colony viewing area

Accessible boardwalk to the Penguin Colony viewing area – Mar 2017

 

Viewing area - Dec 2013

Viewing area – Dec 2013

 

Wheelchair accessible penguin viewing area

Wheelchair accessible penguin viewing area – Dec 2013

 

Ocean view

Ocean view – Dec 2013

 

How to get there

You can reach Simon’s Town by car in a fifty-minute drive, starting from Cape Town. There is a parking area with wheelchair parking lots on Seaforth Road. Just ask the guard and he’ll show you where to park. From there, it is only a short walk to the entrance of the Penguin Colony viewing area.

My Travel Tip: Come in the morning and don’t forget your sun protection. The South African sun is very strong – way stronger than the European sun! You’ll probably be hungry after visiting the cute penguins, so maybe you’d like to try the wheelchair accessible Seaforth restaurant with its beautiful terrace and great food which is located next to the parking!

 

How do you like penguins? Have you already been to Simon’s Town? Please tell me about your experiences and leave a comment below or write an email! Stay tuned, there’s much more to come about things to do in Cape Town!

Cape Town Little Miss Turtle

Wheelchair accessible Cape Town

Wheelchair accessible Cape Town.

A beautiful and wheelchair-friendly dream destination.

 

What comes up first to your mind when you think of Cape Town? Table Mountain, the African penguins, V & A Waterfront, Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Green Point Stadium, Muizenberg, Camps Bay, breathtaking landscapes, surfers, sharks, whales, baboons and much more – welcome to South Africa!

 

Table Mountain View from Bloubergstrand

Table Mountain View from Bloubergstrand

 

Cape Town Helicopter View

Cape Town Helicopter View

 

I’ve already been to Cape Town once before, back in 2013. For three days only, but anyway, that was still enough time to fall in love with this amazing city! To celebrate my brother’s master’s degree, I decided to surprise him and to take him on a trip to Cape Town with me. So, on March 5th our adventure began! We flew with British Airways from Munich to London and from there to Cape Town. The flight took about 11 hours and went smoothly. Once arrived at the airport, we went to Europcar Car Rentals in order to get the car I’d already booked in advance. The next twelve days on the beautiful Western Cape flew by much too fast! We discovered so many incredible wheelchair accessible spots I’d like to share with you!

 

A map of the all the places we visited in Cape Town and the surrounding areas

A map of the all the places we visited in the Cape Town area

 

General Accessibility

Cape Town and the surrounding areas are pretty wheelchair accessible. Almost all major tourist attractions provide a good service for wheelchair users. Most importantly, I always found wheelchair accessible restrooms. There surely are things to improve, like high pavements, but basic accessibility is given. Most people we met were very friendly and always offered to help.

 

Table Mountain seen from Signal Hill

Table Mountain seen from Signal Hill

 

Wheelchair Accessibility Check – Cape Town

 

Wheelchair accessible 

Bloubergstrand

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

Camps Bay Beach Promenade

Canal Walk Shopping Center

Cape of Good Hope

Cape Point – Table Mountain National Park

Cape Wheel

Chapman’s Peak Drive

Citytour Sightseeing Bus

Fish Hoek

Glen Beach (Victoria Parking)

Green Point Park

Hout Bay

Muizenberg

Ou Kaapseweg

Signal Hill

Simons Town

Table Mountain

Two Oceans Aquarium

V & A Waterfront

Waterfront Food Market

Less wheelchair accessible

Cape Point Ostrich Farm
(steps at the entrance)

Chimp Haven
(bumpy pathways with pebble stones)

Drakenstein Lion Park (sandy/bumpy pathways)

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
(some very steep paths)

Long Street – Cape Town
(high pavements)

 

Not wheelchair accessible 

Llandudno Beach
(but still there’s a wheelchair access sign!!!)

Scarborough Beach

 

Where we stayed

The A Tuscan Villa Guesthouse in Fish Hoek was our home for the first 6 nights. One of the rooms is completely wheelchair accessible – the Boulders Room. There’s enough space for a wheelchair user and the spacious bathroom is just perfect with its roll-in shower. The beds are height-adjustable to fit different needs. The owners, Anita and Jeremy Rice, are very friendly, helpful and caring hosts. The breakfast buffet was delicious including freshly prepared fruit salad, pastries, cereals, porridge, toast, cheese, yoghurt and a cooked English breakfast. Fish Hoek is in the near of Boulders Beach with its African penguins as well as the Cape of Good Hope, Muizenberg, and other famous spots, so therefore it was a perfect “home base” for us. See for yourself:

 

 

For the second part of our holiday we moved closer to the Cape Town City Center and stayed in a wheelchair accessible AirBnB-apartment. I have to admit that the accessibility could have been better, especially the bathroom was not perfect for wheelchair users. However, with the help of my brother everything went fine.

 

Stay tuned

There soon will be follow-ups with detailed information about the wheelchair accessibility of almost all major tourist attractions in and around Cape Town, for example Boulders Beach, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway as well as the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. So come back soon…!

 

Have you already been to Cape Town or do you plan to travel there? Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below or by sending a private message. I promise to answer in person :-)!

TOKYO Skytree Skyline

Visiting TOKYO SKYTREE in a wheelchair

TOKYO Skytree – The Basics

TOKYO Skytree is a broadcasting tower in Sumida, Tokyo. It is one of Tokyo’s most popular landmarks. TOKYO Skytree (634 m) is the world’s highest broadcasting tower and also the second tallest building on earth after Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Skytree was finished in 2012 and is located near the traditional borough of Asakusa. The two observation decks offer a unique view of Tokyo and on very clear days you can see Mount Fuji. There is also a large shopping mall, called TOKYO Solamachi, with great food courts, a Planetarium and an Aquarium.

The TOKYO Skytree itself and its surroundings are perfectly wheelchair accessible with many accessible restrooms and elevators.

 

 

How to get there

Oshiage Station and Tokyo Skytree Station serve the TOKYO Skytree and the TOKYO Solamachi shopping complex.

  • Oshiage Station is served by Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, Toei Asakusa Line and Narita Sky Access Line
  • Tokyo Skytree Station is served by Tobu Skytree Line

 

My TRAVEL TIP for you:

From Asakusa Station you can either walk/roll to the Tokyo Skytree (1.4 km/20 min.) or you change for the Tobu Skytree Line which will take you directly to the TOKYO Skytree Station within some minutes.

 

The entrance to Tokyo Skytree is on level 4F.

 

Entry Fees for Persons with Disabilities

Disability SignTokyo Skytree offers reduced entry fees for disability card holders (card must be written in English or Japanese).

I paid 1.540 Yen (about 12 EUR/13 USD) to access both, the Tembo Deck (350 m) and the Tembo Galleria Deck (450 m) which is a great deal. The regular price for an adult for both decks is 3.090 Yen (25 EUR/26 USD). Here you can save 50 %!

The following link provides you with detailed pricing information: http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/reservation/

Scroll down to the end of the page to see the ticket fees for disabled people. There’s no need to book your tickets in advance as disabled visitors can skip all waiting lines.

 

My TRAVEL TIP for you:

If you should encounter problems when asking for the reduced entry fee at the ticket counter, ask for the ticket sales manager! When I wanted to buy my ticket, the sales agent had no clue that there is a special rate for disabled visitors, although the special rate was displayed on the price chart right behind the sales desk.

 

The Tembo Deck (350 m)

View of Tokyo from Tembo DeckAfter buying the tickets, a guide will lead you to the elevator waiting area and you can skip the crowds. The TEMBO shuttle, Japan’s fastest elevator, takes you up to the 3-level Tembo Deck within 50 seconds. From the Tembo Deck upper floor (F350) you have a very nice all-round view of Tokyo. On the middle floor (F345) you find the SKYTREE Shop and the Sky Restaurant 634. The glass floor on the lowest level (F340) might give you some extra-thrills. It also accommodates the SKYTREE Café.

Of course you can also find wheelchair accessible restrooms on all three floors.

The Tembo Deck can get very crowded, so make sure to come either early in the day or at least 1.5 hours before sunset.

If you want an even more spectacular view with less people, I can highly recommend going up to the Tembo Galleria Deck on 450 m. You can buy your tickets at the counter on F350.

 

The Tembo Galleria Deck (450 m)

When the elevator opens on floor 445 and you take a first glimpse of the view you’ll surely say “WOW!”. Spectacular. Amazing. The glass structure gives you the impression to walk out in the sky. The sloped circuit leads you up to the highest point of 451.2 m (Sorakara Point) and finally back to the TEMBO shuttle which will bring you back down to F345.

 

 

There is also a wheelchair accessible toilet, maybe the highest accessible toilet in the world!

We went up to the Tembo Galleria to watch the sunset. It was amazing to see the contours of Mount Fuji as the sun was going down! While I was watching the sky turning red, I was in total inner peace with myself and I forgot everything else around me.

Personally I think that paying the extra fee for Tembo Galleria Deck is totally worth its price! You can stay as long as you wish to and enjoy the beautiful bird’s-eye-perspective of Tokyo.

After our visit, we went to the TOKYO Solamachi food court and had a very good dinner.

 

Summary

I visited the TOKYO Skytree in October 2016 with my mobility scooter and spent a nice day there. TOKYO Skytree is one of the most impressive sights of Tokyo and definitely a Must See. The wheelchair accessibility is just ideal!

 

What do you think of TOKYO Skytree? How do you like the view? Would you like to visit it?

Leave a comment below or send a message to get in touch.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

Guest Article about Kamakura for Accessible Japan

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

 

I wrote my very first guest article!

The article, published on Accessible Japan, deals about Kamakura, a small city in the South of Tokyo. Kamakura is known for its many shrines and the Great Buddha of Kamakura statue.

 

Little Japanese girls in Kimonos

 

I’m very happy to contribute to Accessible Japan’s great database of accessibility for wheelchair users traveling to Japan!

Here is the link to the guest post: https://www.accessible-japan.com/a-one-day-trip-to-kamakura-wheelchair/

Visit Accessible Japan on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AccessibleJapan

Tokyo City Hall

Wheelchair accessible MUST SEES in Tokyo

After telling you about Tokyo’s accessibility in general in my last post, I’d like to show you some great things to do and see. Tokyo is a wheelchair accessible paradise compared to many other cities I’ve been to.

 

1.) Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine

Accessible Yoyogi Park in Tokyo

 

Yoyogi Park is known for its Meiji Shrine. The park is wheelchair accessible and there are enough wheelchair restrooms, too. We saw some nice flower exhibitions on our way through the park. The Meiji Shrine has a wheelchair accessible ramp so that everyone can enjoy the site. We saw cute little girls in traditional kimonos and also a boy dressed in his yukata.

 

Accessible Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

2.) Harajuku – Takeshita dori (Jap./street) and cat street

Accessible Takeshita Dori in Tokyo

 

Harajuku is a trendy shopping paradise for young people. It’s right next to Yoyogi park, so you could easily combine these two activities. Prices are not too expensive and there’s also a great choice of restaurants, fast food outlets, crepe shops (French pancakes) and so on. Takeshita dori is the heart of Harajuku’s most extreme teenage fashion and lifestyle culture. There are lots of different fashion boutiques, used clothes stores and you can even find a big 100-Yen shop. The street itself is narrow and usually crowded. It can get a little tough to maneuver yourself through. But it’s absolutely worth it and definitely one of Tokyo’s many must-sees. You can also visit Cat Street which is less crowded than Takeshita dori. On Cat Street you’ll see much more Japanese fashionistas than tourists.

 

Accessible Takeshita Dori in Tokyo

 

3.) Ueno Park and Ueno Zoo

Accessible Ueno Park in Tokyo

 

Ueno Park is one of my favorite spots in Tokyo. It is a spacious public park with a beautiful lake and many different attractions. The lake is covered with lotus flowers. You can take the Shinobazu pond to cross it. The whole area is wheelchair accessible but I didn’t see wheelchair restrooms.

Ueno Zoo is just next to Ueno Park. If you like zoos you should give it a try as it is Japan’s oldest one. The sometimes hilly area is fully wheelchair accessible with enough restrooms.

 

Accessible Ueno Park in Tokyo

 

4.) Asakusa

Accessible Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

 

Asakusa offers many cool spots to discover. You can still feel an atmosphere of Tokyo’s past decades and maybe you’ll see some Sumos or even Geishas. The Buddhist Sensoji Temple is very popular and the heart of Askusa. The temple is approached via Nakamise street, a shopping street offering loads of souvenirs and traditional local snacks. The temple itself is equipped with a wheelchair accessible ramp.

 

Accessible Asakusa at sunset

 

5.) Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing in wheelchair accessible Tokyo

 

Shibuya is the busy pulse of Tokyo. The famous Shibuya crossing, next to JR’s Hachiko Exit, is the biggest crossing in the world and up to 2500 people cross each time when the lights turn green. But even during rush hour everyone stays remarkably calm and polite. There’s no pushing and people are totally ordered! We spent the evening of Halloween in Shibuya and had to cross. Police officers took care of the 5 crosswalks as there were so many people everywhere. The police gave the signal and the masses started moving. I was scared in my small mobility scooter, but I made it to the other side. I just didn’t stop and people let me pass.

 

Crowds in Shibuya, Tokyo

 

We also visited the statue of Hachiko. Maybe you’ve already heard the name or you’ve seen the movie with Richard Gere? Hachiko was an Akita dog known for its loyalty to his owner, a professor at the University of Tokyo. Each night, this remarkable dog awaited his owner’s return and appeared exactly when the train arrived at Shibuya Station. One day the professor died and didn’t return. Fore more than nine years Hachiko still came back every night to wait for his owner.

 

Accessible Hachiko statue in Shibuya, Tokyo

 

Of course there are much more must-sees and nice places to visit in Tokyo! In the next post I’ll tell you about the differences between Tokyo Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower.

  • Have you already been to Japan? What did you experience? Leave a comment below or send a message to share your thoughts. Stay tuned!
Tokyo JR Train

Tokyo Travel Diary – All about Accessibility

Back home since yesterday, my thoughts are still in Japan. It has been my fourth trip to Tokyo and I will always be in love with this city and its mixture of modern technology and tradition. This time I rented a mobility scooter via Marudai Motor Co. which was the best idea ever to get around easily by myself.

 

Happy with the Pikachu Scooter!

The Pikachu Scooter

 

We flew with Air France to Tokyo Haneda Airport on October 22nd and stayed for 13 nights in a nice AirBnB home in Sendagaya. Together with our friend Sue and her two kids we had an amazing time in Nippon. As I stayed for almost two weeks, I decided to write several articles about my experiences in Tokyo. I’d like to start with the most important topic. The accessibility!

 

Accessibility of Tokyo – The Basics

Strolling through the streets of Tokyo

Strolling through the streets.

Tokyo is one of the most wheelchair accessible cities worldwide. The JR-East Railway Company and also the private Tokyo Metro offer an extraordinary well organized service for wheelchair users. The bus system seems to be mostly wheelchair accessible, too. There are ramps and elevators and very good wheelchair accessible restrooms everywhere. You get many discounts (only after presentation of a disability card written in English) for attractions like Ueno Zoo, TOKYO Skytree and the public gardens.

 

  • Mobility Scooter
Together with the team of Marudai Motor Company

Mr Okura and his staff

Renting a mobility scooter was easy and a great possibility to keep my self-autonomy. I found the Marudai Motor Co. on Google and contacted them. The service was perfect and affordable. Mr Okura and his staff, who were both very friendly and kind, delivered the mobility scooter to our AirBnB house on time. I had to pay 20.000 Yen (about 175 EUR or 195 USD) for two weeks.

Mobility Scooter Certificate from Marudai Motor Company in Tokyo

The Certificate

I think this price is very reasonable. I got some instructions but as I already use my Red Devil at home, I knew exactly how to drive this sweet litte scooter. The rental company handed me over a certificate saying that I officially rented the scooter and that it is permitted to use it on JR-East Trains as well as on the Metro. If you come with your own scooter you might encounter some problems. Mobility scooters are still very rare in Japan. It seems that mobility scooters are not yet accepted as mobility devices for disabled people. The certificate though made everything possible!

 

 

JR-East Trains and Tokyo Metro

When we had to take the JR (almost daily), we went to the station’s wheelchair counter to ask for help. I always presented the certificate to the staff. The service agent accompanied us to the train track and installed a mobile ramp to get me on the train. Once arrived at our destination, another service agent already waited for me to help me out of the train with the ramp. The agent also showed us the way to the exit. We really enjoyed this excellent VIP service because the stations are huge and can get very crowded. The JR-East Japan Railway Company has high service standards for people with disabilities. Travelling with JR-East is a real pleasure!

 

 

I wondered if JR-East offers a discount for disabled but the agent at the customer service desk explained that a discount is only applicable for Japanese disability card holders and only on demand. Isn’t it funny how a disability kind of „disappears“ when crossing borders? But anyway, the question was worth to be asked. One of the private metros offered a discount which was very kind. The Metro service agent told us to purchase a ticket for children and so we saved 50 % of the regular price.

 

Tokyo is worth a visit – especially as a wheelchair user!

I really like the amazing Japanese sense of service and perfectionism.

 

In the next blog post I’ll tell you more about things to do and see in Tokyo!

Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Disneyland Paris in a wheelchair

 

Disneyland, a place almost every child dreams of. I’ve never been to one and so I decided to find out how wheelchair accessible Disneyland Paris is. In this article, I’ll give you some good advice, tips and tricks as well as  detailed information on the attractions for wheelchair users.

 

 

Disneyland Paris – The Basics

Disneyland Paris is an entertainment resort in Marne-La-Vallée near Paris. The famous resort was the second Disney park to open outside the US in April 1992. Another theme park, the Walt Disney Studio Park, opened in 2002. Disneyland Paris is the most visited entertainment resort in Europe.

 

How to get there from Paris CDG Airport

Disneyland is located about 45 km (30 miles) east of Paris. It takes approximately 1 hour to get there by car. Of course you can also get to Disneyland Paris by train. There are enough parking lots for disabled visitors (20 EUR/ day) if you should come by car. We took a flight to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and from there we took the TGV (high-speed train) to the Disneyland Train Station Marne La Vallée-Chessy. This train leaves at the CDG Airport train station in Terminal 2 and it takes only 9 minutes to Disneyland. The Disney Magical Shuttle is not wheelchair accessible, but a special transfer service can be arranged upon email request.

 

Disability SignMy TRAVEL TIP for you:

Travelling by train is the fastest, cheapest and also the most wheelchair accessible way to Disneyland Paris. Purchase your train ticket at the SNCF ticket counter in Terminal 2 and present your disability ID card. There is a reduced rate for disabled travellers as well as for their companion. The regular ticket price for one adult varies between EUR 16.50 to EUR 25 depending on the train. You can save up to 50 %!

 

Where to stay

Radisson Blu Resort at Disneyland Paris

Radisson Blu Resort at Disneyland Paris

There are many hotels near Disneyland Paris. We booked the Radisson Blu Resort at Disneyland, but unfortunately I cannot quite recommend this hotel. Although our room category was “Accessible Queen” the bathroom was equipped with a bathtub. I went back to the reception and asked for a room with roll-in shower. The receptionist explained that all those rooms were occupied. She told me that the staff didn’t know which of their accessible rooms were equipped with a roll-in shower and that they had no possibility to check that in their system. As a proof she even let me have a look in their electronic booking for myself. Anyway, my boyfriend and I arranged us with our room. The hotel offered a free shuttle service to Disneyland and back. The shuttle bus was equipped with a ramp and the ride took only 10 minutes.

 

Ticket Price and Priority Access

 Ticket Desk for Disabled at Disneyland Paris

The regular one-day ticket price for an adult varies between EUR 47 to EUR 65. You get access to both parks. Disabled visitors can purchase tickets at a special ticket desk on the right side of the ticket counters area. When you are severely disabled and you have a medical confirmation from your doctor or a disability ID card (French or English), your helper will get a free entry ticket. So once again, you can save 50 %!

 

little-miss-turtle-disney-guides-and-cards

Accessibility guides, our entry tickets and the priority cards.

 

 

 

  • Priority Access Card

After buying your tickets you should also go to the Donald Desk (it’s right next to the special ticket desk) or to the Visitor Relations Desk to ask for a Priority Access Card. Disneyland offers a Priority Card to disabled guests in order to get to the attractions via a specially-adapted entrance. Here you also have to show your disability ID card or a medical certificate. Follow this link to get more information: http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/guest-services/guests-with-mobility-disabilities/

 

 

Attractions

I got the Accessibility Guide for Disneyland Paris and the Walt Disney Studios which describe all the accessible attractions. As my boyfriend would help me to transfer, I had a large choice of possible rides. But there are also some completely wheelchair accessible rides where you can stay in your own wheelchair: Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, The Studio Tram Tour, It’s a small world and Ratatouille! Very cool – I’ve never seen this before! Unfortunately many other attractions were closed due to renovations work.

 

 

My favorite rides were Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Studio Tram Tour, Ratatouille and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. We also did the Disney Railroad Express, Phantom Manor, Autopia, Casey Jr. Train and Slinky Dog which require to transfer. Alice’s Labyrinth, Mysteries of Nautilus, Armageddon, Aladdin’s Passage as well as The Dragon Cave are also totally wheelchair accessible. Honestly, the Railroad Express wasn’t worth waiting… Not much to see. In the evening, we watched the stunning Magic Hours Show! Don’t miss it!

 

 

Summary

Both parks are perfectly wheelchair accessible. The staff was friendly and very willing to help. Wheelchair accessible bathrooms are everywhere. I had a great time at Disneyland Paris and the Walt Disney Studios and can definitely recommend it to wheelchair users!

 

  • free entrance for one valid assistant
  • Priority Access to attractions
  • wheelchair accessible attractions like It’s a small world, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast etc.
  • friendly and helpful staff
  • easy to get there by train (TGV)
  • enough accessible restrooms

 

 

 

 

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 ;-).

A short trip to Berlin – Misfit Models

 

Two weeks ago I took the plane to Berlin. I had an appointment at Misfit Models, a model agency in Berlin-Pankow. This agency, founded and run by Del Keens, is looking for people with character and style who do not fit the current ideal of beauty. I’ve discovered their website not too long ago and decided to apply as a wheelchair model. I already did some work in front of the camera and loved it. But more about that in another blog post.

 

So, I booked a flight with easyJet to Berlin-Schöneberg airport, mentioning my foldable wheelchair and my “special needs” in the booking process. At the airport the mobility service accompanied us through the security check. Sometimes being disabled comes along with great advantages – at the airport you’re always treated like a VIP and never have to wait in endless crowds… Me and my boyfriend were the first to board. At the gate two helpers from the mobility service took me to the airplane, sat me on a small transfer chair and folded away my own wheelchair. They took me to my row and installed me on the passenger seat. Once landed in Berlin-Schönefeld we were the last passengers to leave the aircraft. Again the mobility service helped to get me out of the plane and put me back into my own wheelchair. We then were taken to a van and driven to the arrival zone.

 

First things first: We had to stop at a takeaway and eat a Berliner Currywurst which is unique in its taste! That was so good! We took the public transport, which is very wheelchair accessible, to get to our hotel. The Wyndham Garden Berlin Mitte is a nice 4-star-hotel with a very good breakfast buffet, but it isn’t 100 % wheelchair-friendly.

 

The next morning I had my appointment at Misfit Models. There are some steps at the entrance but as soon as the staff saw me they came out and installed a funny-looking wheelchair-ramp. After some paper work I finally met Del and he took some pictures for their website. A camera man from the German BILD News was filming the shooting and afterwards the BILD team asked me some questions. Half an hour later we were already on our way back to the airport to take our flight back home. What a cool short trip!

See me in the news on German Bild.de: “Dieses Casting ist keine Freakshow”

And here you get to my card: Misfit Model Melanie

Air France Airbus A320 Paris CDG

Nice surprise at Paris CDG Airport

I lately took a flight to Paris CDG Airport together with my boyfriend. After landing, a nice disability service assistant helped me to leave the airplane. He lifted me back into my wheelchair and accompanied us all the way to the arrival zone. At the exit, he asked us what we would do next. I replied that we would go to our hotel and that no more help was needed as we came here often and knew how to get to our destination.

 

The service assistant wasn’t satisfied with my answer and kept on asking where we would spend the night. His insisting way of interviewing us was very uncommon – I really didn’t know how to deal with it! It made me feel slightly uncomfortable. My boyfriend replied that we would sleep in a hotel at Roissy, not far from the airport. The service assistant then wanted to know the exact name of the hotel. “Okay …”, I thought, “Why is this guy so curious? What might he be up to?”. But friendly as I am, I told him where we would stay, with a slight note of impatience in my voice.

 

Finally he informed us, that there was a free shuttle service especially for disabled travelers and that he would call this service right now to take us directly to our hotel. “Why didn’t he tell us right away about it?”, I asked myself with a sensation of relief. The assistant explained that he had been doing the assistance job for more than 20 years and he only wanted to make sure that we would reach our hotel without any trouble. He continued that he took his job very seriously which I confirmed noddingly.

 

As a frequent wheelchair traveller, I regularly fly to Paris CDG. However, no one had ever mentioned this shuttle service before. So in order to make this very involved assistant happy, I decided to give it a try for the next morning. The service shuttle picked us up at our hotel at 07:30 am. It felt like being some kind of VIP as we were the only 2 passengers. We were back at the CDG airport within 10 minutes. What an unexpected surprise! I’ll surely take advantage of this great shuttle service again!