Rob Crossan, a London-based journalist and radio presenter, writes on travel, food and disability issues. Here are the highlights of a semi-serious article he did for CNN yesterday on the five worst places to be a disabled traveler.
Does anyone know of any decent disabled-friendly architects?
It’s my hunch that few people in charge of contracting out renovations to make landmark historic buildings more accessible have the numbers of many stored in their cell phones.
Seeing yet another Art Nouveau or classicist structure in Athens, Paris or London with concrete wheelchair ramps clamped onto the entrance is enough to make me feel guilty for having a disability.
But then again, it’s not my fault. It’s the fault of designers who approach access aesthetics with the care and attention of a starving dog attacking a plate of sausages.
At least they’re trying.
There are some places on Earth which, were I of a more skeptical mind, I’d be tempted to think have a state-invested industry in maiming and humiliating people with disabilities.
As a travel journalist, I’ve been all around the planet. Here are five of the worst places I’ve experienced:
1. Cairo Roads
Caution. Sense. Moderation. Safe: Just four of the words that don’t seem to exist in the lexicon of the typical Cairo driver.
The almost total lack of pedestrian subways, the interpretation of traffic lights as a voluntary piece of gentle advice rather than an instruction, alongside the homicidal lack of brake efficiency in the average Cairo taxicab means that even an Olympic sprinter would struggle to cross a main road here without incurring some level of invective from speeding drivers after narrowly escaping being crushed.
For people with disabilities, probably best to check your travel insurance each and every time you consider crossing even the smallest of streets.
2. Smaller US airport departure boards
For the visually impaired it would seem that provincial US airport departure lounges are complicit in some sort of bad-taste joke.
In an age where IMAX screens are big enough to envelop the Vatican, many airports Stateside still insist on displaying gate numbers and departure times on a screen so primitive, ancient and small that you expect the entire thing to malfunction and start screening “Gone With the Wind” or “Steamboat Willie” at any moment.
Goodbye flight connection. Hello 24-hour layover in Fargo.
3. Chain hotel minibars
Frankly, if you’re prepared to pay over $5 for a small tube of Pringles then you’ve brought it all on yourself (and, by the way, what part of “multipack, not to be sold separately” do many hotel chains not understand regarding the labeling on their minibar snacks?).
But there’s still an extra “rip-off” element to the minibar fridge.
Namely, that the font on the print menus is often so small that you’d almost think that the staff wanted you to misread it or give up in frustration and order anyway knowing that they’re going to make an obscene markup on their bland starchy nibbles.
Not that I would ever dream of drawing such a cynical conclusion, of course…
4. Balkan villages
Cobbled streets are beautiful to look at. But they’re an absolute nightmare to traverse across if you have any one of myriad disabilities.
Of course we don’t want villages from Croatia to Macedonia to rip them up and replace them with skateboard-smooth asphalt.
Please keep your beautiful villages exactly like they are. Just go easy on me if I’m in a foul mood.
It’s not because I dislike your access situation. It’s that I’m just fuming with jealousy than I’m not able to come and have a noon beer in that precarious-looking bar perched on top of the cliff at the village summit.
5. London Underground
The first London tube line opened in the mid-19th century — a less enlightened time in terms of disability rights.
But come 2017, it’s horribly annoying to find that the most disability-friendly lines on the network are the ones that don’t really go anywhere that you’d be interested in visiting if you’re on vacation.
Cue desperately leafing through the guidebook to find something worth doing on the farther reaches of the Docklands Light Railway followed by utilizing every self-delusional tool possible to convince myself that I don’t really want to go to clubbing in Dalston or strolling by the Thames after all.
The worst bit is, Transport for London claims to have one of the most accessible transport networks in the world — and they may well be right.
People with disabilities still face a deplorable amount of practical challenges when visiting tourist hotspots around the world, never mind the rampant discrimination that still exists.
Like everyone else, we’re just looking for a relaxing break. In the 21st century, should it still be this hard?
For more information on Rob, visit his website.