Accessible Travel

I had never really thought of it before; the needs of the disabled when they travel. While traipsing around India in the last 10 days (I did Bangalore to Chennai to Bangalore to Delhi to Chennai to Tanjore to Chennai to Bangalore, which explains my disappearance from this blog for some time), I came across the group that was in India for a series of conferences on Accessible Travel, which is short-hand for ‘doing all of those things that help disabled travellers travel easier’.

Met a couple of interesting people that evening in Delhi – guys who are opening up a world of easier travel for the disabled.

Scott Rains : Scott is the man who put the disabled on the world agenda. He coined practically all the phrases that are today the cornerstones of all discourse on disability, including Universal Design. In fact, almost all US legislation on disability has the Rains imprimatur. Read Scott’s writings at the Rolling Rains report here.

Craig Grimes : Craig was the first person to demonstrate conclusively that the disabled are a definite ‘market’ in world travel. While living in Barcelona, Craig set up AccessibleBarcelona, a tour operator focused on helping the disabled have a good holiday in Barcelona. And made it into a viable and vibrant business. Craig now lives in Nicaragua and is at it again. Check out his latest venture – AccessibleNicaragua.

I also met Jani Nayar of Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality in NY. They are a Non-profit that works to increase awareness of the needs of the disabled for Travel.

A common theme that ran through all of the conversation was the notion that disabled travellers form a large market. And that it is in the interest of the travel trade to focus on this market and make it easier for the disabled to get around.

My view of world aviation

Among ‘low-level ecstasies’ that I have spotted recently, finding yourself unexpectedly in a bulkhead seat with lots of legroom in the economy class of a very long international flight with no one occupying the 3 seats next to you and absolutely no babies in sight, is a pretty difficult one to beat. But then, world aviation today is so character-forming that occasional mercies merit joyous indulgence.

As I forsake business travel for leisure trips and consequently do more coach than upper class, my approach to flying is getting highly refined. John Playfair the British philosopher wrote (in another context of course – he did not have the advantage of modern long distance flying to sharpen his philosophical approach),

“It were unwise to be sanguine

and unphilosophical to despair”

While one can write reams of ‘how to’ tips on Flying, the good John’s snappy two-liner seems to pretty much cover it.

And, as I stood in queue with about 8 gazillion people for 2 hours in the Dubai International airport recently, trying to hand over my bag to someone in Emirates, I thanked ol’ John. ‘Twas good advice.

Incidentally, ‘low level ecstasy’ is a term coined by Bill Bryson, for which he gets my vote as the Philosopher of the Year. And while I am on the subject of giving credit where it is due, let me add that the John Playfair quote above is from Stephen Jay Gould’s book, Rocks of Ages. And just in case Mr Gould stumbles upon my blog : yes, I do think Rocks of Ages is an intriguing book – in spite of having phrases like Non Overlapping Magisteria.

The most chilling sentence in world tourism

Of late, I have been researching Africa. Going by my past experience of my own behaviour, a trip there seems imminent.

But I was brought up short by this one sentence. I was on the Zambia tourism website, in the section which gives you lots of information on how to travel around the wonderful country of the Zambezi river & Victoria falls. Right at the bottom of the page, after all the enthusiastic stuff about Rail journeys inside Zambia, is one line, lurking all by itself. It reads:

“To be safe, ask the station police to escort you to a taxi”