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  • freewheeling
  • : Blog on being a disabled person, different cultures, diversity, equality, disability, travel, being diaspora Chinese and disabled travel.
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Here are some of my photos. This shows some of my travels.



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Xiaolu Guo
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
A love story - cultural differences, misunderstandings and yes, I see what she is saying.
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Su Tong
Binu and the Great Wall


Binu and the Great Wall

Binu And The Great Wall is a wonderful myth retold in the words of Su Tong, the author of ‘Rice’.  The myth of Binu and how her tears washed away the Great Wall have been passed down through the ages. It is a tale of hardship, brutality and undying love. Su Tong’s version of the myth, brings to the reader the harshness and brutality that led to the constuction of the wall and the terrible effects it had on the common people.

22 septembre 2008 1 22 /09 /septembre /2008 00:08
I found myself on a train to Plymouth on the way to a meeting at the Eden Project, St Austell
Without going into the boring details, I ended up staying in a Plymouth hotel to take a taxi to St Austell the next morning. I found that a bit ridiculous so I booked myself at a hotel nearer St Austell about 3 miles away at the Prmier Inn.

The Eden Project touts itself as a very accessible tourist spot with some spectacular global gardens. I was pleased to find I had a couple of hours to spend there after my meeting. Alas, I spend the entire time trying to get me a taxi to go 3 miles down the road. The taxi number which was provided had a service which did school runs (was based in Truro, 18 miles away) and did not run after 6 pm..The lady at the reception desk was very good she went to the council for information about accessible taxis - at the end of a very long period, she got a taxi. So I was there and did not get to see any part of the Park.

The taxi driver then told me that he had provided Eden Project with his taxi cards many times but they refuse to acknowledge them preffering for customers to get the other taxi from far distance rather than to settle for local service. It is probably a procurement issue. But it means I was left feeling very very frustrated because I had spend all time to on finding a taxi to my hotel. The website had a lot of bus information - unfortunately the only accessible hotel I found was not near an accessible busroute.. So near yet so far...

Here is St Austell's own accessible taxi firm: .Gary's Taxis phone number - 07989963372 and his email is xgazzax@aol.com
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16 septembre 2008 2 16 /09 /septembre /2008 23:39
I was in Norway to attend a seminar and visited ULOBA - the only co operative for personal assistance in Norway if not the world. They look like a great success which is sustainable, they own their building and it had great facilities with a well equipped conference room and facilities, I was impressed.

But I am not so impressed by access in Norway - I was only in Oslo for a short while. I could not find an accessible loo and in fact, could not locate a place to have a coffee which was not exposed to the elements - I know it is only September but I was cold. My new friend Hild showed me an accessible loo in a shopping centre which was by no means clean. But I was given to understand that disabled people get generous social care - so much so they are deemed not to lead public transport.

I didn't find many disabled people in the streets of Oslo even though I was wandering in the city center - even the Hard Rock Cafe was not accessible but many Burger Kings were. Some of the curbcuts were quite high. I did not see a single blind man or guide dog - probably because it would be difficult to negotiate, there was no tactile paving and the beeb that goes on the crossings seem a tad confusing to me.

In the garden near the National Theatre I found a nice shelter where they did hot tom yum soup noodles. The Thon Hotel Munch was a reasonable accessible hotel (with a roll in shower). There was also a nice Chinese restaurant next door ( up a small step). The staff was helpful but there is no hot drinks - hot water for tea costs about 25 kroner (>£2.50). Breakfast was continental with an egg and baked beans..

The most spectacular is the opera house - where you can wheel and climb up to the top but I chickened out before I got to the top.

Opera House Oslo


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6 août 2008 3 06 /08 /août /2008 20:51
I went back to Paris on Monday - this time armed with travel guides and a half formed plan about specific places I wanted to check out. I had wanted to stay 3 nights but as luck would have it I had to back in UK for an appointment. As I had not really decided whether I had wanted to go, I did not buy any tickets and to find out I could not buy a Eurostar ticket  for wheelchair space except for 2 days in advance. I took the risk and bought my ticket at St Pancras without problem.

Arriving at Gare du Nord, I bought a sim card so that I had a mobile phone with me. I also wanted to ask some bus and RER enquiries which would not have work with the enquiry phone  numbers had I not had a local phone but I thought I could save some money by having a local mobile number. I am not sure it was worth it now because the card cost 15 euros! and it seemed to go very quickly. I had also some accessible bus routes printed out with me. I also went to the Tourism Information point at the Gare du nord - the woman was not very helpful but she gave me a bus map

This time I was determined to get to the Eiffel Tower and get on a bateau Mouche! But I wasn't sure which bus to take so I called the 3246 number on the bus map ( Now I know that I should have used the No Azur 0810 646464 (helpline for wheelchair travellers which charges local rates). After a bit of time, using up a lot of my minutes on my new sim card) they told me to take the No 42 bus. Now this was not marked on the map as an accessible bus route but it was and I got off at the Eiffel Tower stop. I did not go to the iconic Parisian landmark immediately but passed the Musée du Quai Branly remembering with such a pang of loss, my friend Xavier Perrot  wishing he was still here  for me to tell of my excitement of actually being there. He was the first person to inform me about the opening of that museum when I was still in the US - urging me to get back to Europe, and even suggested I should apply for a job there.

I found my way to the Bateau Mouche and got the cruise I promised myself - feeling very proud because i got on an accessible cruise. After 2 hours, I got back on the river bank and set back but the museum was closed by now so headed to the Eiffel Tower. I did not eat at the Restaurant although I was tempted but thought I better get to my hotel before too late. It was back at the Gare du Nord.


Eiffel Tower

I managed to find a brilliant Ibis hotel near Gare du Nord. It was spacious, modern and the staff were very friendly. I am not sure of their level of English but they seem to cope. The next day, I set out to do some shopping and found my way back on the bus to go to Les Halles. I wanted some simple supermarket things, and Fnac to look up some books and French cds. I felt inordinately pleased with myself after coming out with some French dried ham, biscuits a French thriller a wheelchair guide by Lucie Fontaine  and the new Carla Bruni cd. Nothing great   but I am glad  I managed  to get Lucie's slim guide  before it sold out.  After I  visited St Eustache a really nice church and stroll around.
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18 juin 2008 3 18 /06 /juin /2008 01:15
Rachel and I went to Paris by Eurostar. We set off quite early at 6am to catch the train to Euston - we nearly got locked up in the lift instead when the lift in my block of flats jammed. Luckily Rachel got it opened and we hopped off to the station.

Arriving at Euston, we managed to hop over to St Pancras  when we settled nicely down in the first class compartment. The only wheelchair seats available are in first class, we got served a nice hot breakfast and was in Paris Gare du Nord in a bit over 2 hours.

From there we took the bus to Pompidou Centre (discovering too late, it does not open on a Tuesday) and got on the bus again to continue to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame entrance

I unwisely decided that we would eat opposite the Notre Dame and had to pay the premium for the location - it was very expensive for a small plate of  plain sphegetti with sauce.

After visiting the Notre Dame, we set off to look for an accessible bateau mouch but did not find one and settle for the Hotel de Ville where we went off to do some shopping. So we went down Rue  de Rivoli into BHV just accross and went up to the nice cafe upstairs.
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21 mai 2008 3 21 /05 /mai /2008 02:38
Recently, I have become more and more reliant on my power wheelchair and I am very reluctant to fly because I am pertrified something might happen to my chair (Qatar airline managed to leave my manual in Heathrow one Christmas holiday ago). But also because it seems like disabled passengers have been discriminated agains (such as in the case of my friend, Michelle, by Air France) and Peter Tan in Malaysia.

I was notified about this piece of information about air travel in India -   http://accessability.co.in/AirTravel-Know-Your-Rights.pdf

I was alerted to the loophole - airlines to charge for, "any human assistance rendered." I guess this means that we should be grateful that we got this ' special' service. I was once told that by the guy who took me off the plane - he said I should be grateful for people like him to help me off the plane. Best to bring the right change - who is going to make the charge? I do not think I am going to India in the near future.

I used to have to remember to have that cash with me when I used to land at the Fort Worth airport when I was a student in Austin. I used to be asked for tips for getting me off the aircraft and once I was even wheeled to the cash point in order to get some cash out for the assistance staff. At that time, I did'nt even think of complaining. I am getting so much more bolshoi in my old age.

This idea that it is a 'special assistance' put out at a certain inconvenience is all too common. I was told that just last week at Euston that I should inform them as required (time given is 24 hour's notice) to make sure I had the help to get on and off the train. To ask for special asssistance. I should feel so specially priviledged. The thing is I have done that before and the amount of difference to help and attention is not that great. I travel such a lot that very often I do not know the precise time I can travel. I know when I can I do ring ahead.

Actually most of the rail workers are kind to me and they deal with me efficiently and without a grumble and I have the Coventry station folks in mind. They have been unstintingly cheerful and helpful and I truly appreciate them.
        
     
       
     
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12 février 2008 2 12 /02 /février /2008 13:28
I stayed there last night on the 16th floor. It has a lovely view from the elevator - you can truly see a wide expense of the London landscape. Its at a very handy location between Euston and Kings Cross/ St Pancras (Eurostar) train stations and opposite to the British Library,.

It is accessible enough for wheelchair users if you are comfortable with platform lifts - into the hotel itself and down into the lounge area. I found the room spacious, the bathroom would be lovely had they made the shower seat wider. It was an adjustable seat - more like a perch - and because it was adjustable, I was pertrified it might be unsteady. It also had a bath tub with a seat across and shower attachment, I felt safer with that. I think this is a shame because otherwise it was a lovely room. The shower had also doors which makes it difficult to negotiate.

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17 janvier 2008 4 17 /01 /janvier /2008 00:03
Men's toilet

We went to Dallas, Texas. There were the four of us, John, Nick and his PA, Ben. I did not have the time to write about it while we were there. The journey went smoothly - much better than I had feared. Gatwick Airport  was efficient and checked us in and dispatched us to the door of the plane without insisting that we transferred to their chairs. It helped that my brother in law, KC, had us upgraded to business class. John especially was happy that we got to wait at the first class lounge when we checked in - with the  limitless drinks ans snacks offered.
Nick reading at First class lounge, Gatwick Airport

Nick was happy with his choice of magazines and I thought I could finally relax because I was tense with fear that things might go awry about wheelchairs etc.

Nope. We managed to get to our seats without too much fuss although we didn't get the seats I thought I had reserved for us. Rightly or wrongly, I think American Airlines is good about getting wheelchair customers support right. We certainly appreciated the comfortable seats which were adjustable - Nick could not have done without them for the journey was a grueling 10 hour trip.

KC met us as planned and he had the hired accessible Dodge mini van (from Wheelchair Getaway) which took the two power wheelchairs. I had booked us into Embassy Suites near Galleria shopping center. It had okay rooms and two swans in the restaurant area. We all thought it was cruel to keep swans in a hotel - they must be driven mad by boredom if nothing else.

My relatives asked what is there to do in Dallas apart from shopping. I asked that myself but we managed to fit in going to a rodeo in Fort Worth, going to South Fork ranch (from the Dallas series fame), Sixth Floor museum where JRK got shot and lots of eating. I have never been to a rodeo before so it was quite fun - doing the Texan thing. Everything was quite accessible. The only fly in the ointment was the singer - she screeched and wailed till I thought she was going to do my head in. I think - and hope- she was a stand in.

Fort Worth rodeo

 
 
I only wished we had enough time to have gone to see more of Texas but KC took us to some hotel conference place - Gaylord Resort- which had some awful replicas of San Antonio Riverwalk and the Hill country. We also went to South Fork ranch. Never ever really watched the Dallas series nor a fan of the Ewing family, the saving grace for me was a very entertaining young tour guide by the name of Clare who told us some ripping yarns and she was pretty to boot much to the appreciation of my companions..

tour-guide.jpg Our journey back was quite uneventful until we got to Gatwick. They wanted us to transfer. Nick stood his ground and they eventually transported our chairs to meet us at the door of the plane. The staff were not originally willing to move the distance from the lifts. It was worth kicking up a fuss and the crew agreed with us that it was right that we should have our chairs awaiting us at the door of the aircraft. After all we did give them an hour's notice that we needed them.


For  the first time  I  took the train back  from Gatwick to  Coventry.  It was not too bad I changed at  Watford and did  not have to go through  Central London.nti_bug_fck
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2 janvier 2008 3 02 /01 /janvier /2008 02:11
Tonight i came back to Coventry in time for Quesha's 18th birthday. I couldn't believe it when they told me at euston that I have to come home in a taxi - black cab all the way.. It must cost Virgin a fortune to send all those who cannot take buses in taxis!
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11 décembre 2007 2 11 /12 /décembre /2007 04:11
I had taken the earliest train from Coventry  which would normally have arrived at just after 7 but there was a delay due to some track problem and we were waiting outside Rugby. I managed to catch my Eurostar train - I found the staff very helpful in helping me change my ticket and we were off.

At the Gare du Nord, Herve from PTITCAR was waiting for me as promised and whisked me off to La Villette which was further than I had anticipated.

  accessible taxi

He was just as punctual waiting for me to get me back to Gare de l' Est to catch the train to Strasbourg.
The station has finished its renovations and look much brighter and has many more shops - I managed to get some pasta -

Pasta at the Gare de l ' Est

The TGV is much more spacious than the UK counterparts much though i am indepted to Virgin trains, it cannot be compared to French trains - where I can transfer and put up my feet.

On the TGV, I can put up my feet on the train

This is the system where they get you up on a train - they call it a passerelle which means a bridge. They put you on it and then they cranck it up to the train level.

Getting on the TGV with the ' passerelle'
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25 novembre 2007 7 25 /11 /novembre /2007 19:39
I have been all round London looking for the easiest way to Charing Cross Hospital to see my mate, Andrea, who had just had her major operation. I was dumbfounded when at Charing Cross station they told  me that the hospital is away in Hammersmith. I figured out the bus route and went round Trafalgar Sq several times looking for the right bus going the right direction, and had been on 2 buses before I gave up on public transport and hailed a taxi and then was stuck in chock a block traffic. At that point I decided to abort the planned visit and turn back because  the taxi driver told me that we were going to move at snail's space. The last time I went that way was to go to Rakesh's wedding and it was £30 taxi fare. At any rate, I was due to have dinner with Catherine, who was over for the weekend and staying at Morgan hotel in Bloomsbury (very inaccessible). So we sat at at Taz, 22, Bloomsbury Street. London. WC1B 3QJ. telephone:. +44 (0) 20 7637 4555. They were very friendly, didn't seem to mind that we were drinking tea for ages before dinner. This restaurant has level access entrance but the loo is downstairs in a platform lift. Catherine introduced me to her friend, Tatiana, a Russian law student who is staying at the Docklands.

The next day I set off from Wimbledon  and negotiated my way to  the hospital, changing only twice. Andrea was suitably impressed by all my travelling and I was disappointed the staff would not let me bring in the flowers I got for her into her room. On the way back I managed to bring Hammersmith bus station almost to a standstill because the wheelchair ramp got stuck when the No. 10 bus to take me back to Euston got its ramp out. to let me in. There's nothing to make you more popular than doing that at peak travelling time. The station master explained its because some times the ramps find the pavements too high - it is a peculiar attribute of this station that it was build when there was a different generation of buses. So be warned fellow disabled passengers!

So it took me as long to get to Euston as it did to get back to Coventry. London Oxford Street was very crowded. The trains were overspilling too. Reminder to self - try not to travel on a Friday night especially not at that time.
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