It is morning in Johannesburg ("Jo'burg").
My City Lodge hotel room reminds me of any of my college dormitory rooms -- only much smaller. After removing the chair to the built-in desk (proper wheelchair height) and one of the bed tables so that the bed could be rotated there is enough room to turn around in a manual wheelchair. Fortunately the accommodations also includes a double bed. That way I am able to sleep with one of my two suitcases leaving it at a height where it can be reached in the morning and leaving enough clear floor space to move in the chair when I get up.
The flight last night on on Mango Airlines (nice color airplanes was uneventful after a 1 hour and 10 minute delay. The passengers to the left and right of me noted that the engines sounded funny. We all lightened the mood by introducing ourselves and then immediately saying, "Goodbye. Nice meeting you" in case we forgot such pleasantries in what seemed destined to be a quick landing.
The lineup of passengers in our row sounds like the opening of a joke - two Assembly of God missionaries, a sexology intern, myself, a model, and an HIV researcher.
I'll leave your imagination free to consider the topics of our non-stop conversations during the hour-long flight. Uncensored was the political analysis of this broad range of South Africans and long-term residents. The consensus was a sense of betrayal that the dream of post-apartheid equality has been sold out for a clinging to old models of greed and power-lust by a new set of players. The hunger on the streets is for trustworthy leadership.
On the theme of air travel and disability this bit of news came my way this morning:
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has received just 161 calls about accessible travel since EU regulations were introduced in July 2008 to protect the rights of disabled people when travelling by air.
The EHRC said the figures represent first-time callers ringing its helpline who were concerned about airlines not providing help with issues such as seating or assistance at the point of arrival.
The concern is that many of the 8.5 million disabled people in the UK are avoiding travelling by air or are not complaining out of embarrassment.
Marti Giochi reports in her latest issue of Global Access news that mystery shopper John Roberts continues his world tour with posts over at Travel Weekly:
John Roberts (a pseudonym) takes an inaccessible tours of Singapore at http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/01/05/29862/the-disability-travel-challenge-booked-tours-in-singapore-not.html
Then it's onto Sydney where he faced several access challenges http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/01/09/29908/the-disability-travel-challenge-inaccessible-tours-and-steep-hills-in.html
A Qantas flight from Cairns to Brisbane was also riddled with problems http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/01/21/30029/the-disability-travel-challenge-cairns-to-brisbane-with.html and a Diamond Princess cruise at http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/02/03/30125/the-disability-travel-challenge-diamond-princess-cruise.htmll
Off by van today to discover a new face of South Africa -- Gauteng province. Even in this economic slowdown people with disabilities are traveling with pseudonyms and without.