I woke up around 6:00 am to travel to the airport – a normal ‘day at the office’, but not quit the routine I am used to…
CHALLENGE #1: Picking up Joke from her apartment seemed to be a reasonable challenge to start the day with. Living on the 3rd floor in an apartment with wide alleys, access ramp and an elevator, this place really breaths accessibility. Nevertheless, try to take a big ass suitcase in an elevator together with a wheelchair – impossible. Coming outside – in drizzling Belgian weather – first job of the day was trying to squeeze in the wheelchair in my – otherwise sizeable – Audi A3. The hardest part however, was to get out of the wheelchair and inside the car with this slippery weather. Not that easy if you are not used to it, but you don’t need to teach Joke anything.
CHALLENGE #2: Check-in and arranging assistance in the airport is not always convenient. However, I noticed first hand that people are always willing to help out – even if you actually don’t need it. By the way, it seems that our presence was well communicated throughout the different parties in the airport. An important side remark to mention are the hours Joke spent on the phone to arrange her travel upfront; it took Joke twice my travel time and six telephone calls to get everything arranged. Imagine if we could live the same experience with a single click or swipe… a well integrated platform cross different industries and third parties, with different services embedded, would do miracles here.
CHALLENGE #3: Ever noticed that the alleys of the airplane are ridiculous narrow? I did in the past, but I was never exposed to it as today. You need to drop your wheelchair in front of the plane and need to transfer to a little trolley-like voiture which will bring you to your spot. Although the friendly personnel did their utmost best to do this transfer as smooth as possible, it is important to note that also wheelchair users don’t like to get their pants wet although it is “only rain” on the seat of the trolley. Next to this, wouldn’t it be nice to have wheelchair users on the front row, instead of the window seat on the second floor?
The most important part of the journey were the little things that show that there is an opportunity to make the everyday life of a wheelchair user more agréable (to say it with a French word), among others the accessibility desk in the airport, the fast lane for wheelchair users, the big size taxis in France and all the helping hands alongside our journey. It is nice to see that the world becomes more accessible every day with every single little hand.