Travel Warnings

Global Access News encourages our readers to report any unlawful, inadequate or negligent treatment they experience while traveling. Please share your experience, so that other disabled travelers may avoid such abuse..

Marti Gacioch, Editor

Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada: Left at the Curb, August 2011
South Africa July 2008
Air France June 2008
Tokyo: Inaccessible Shibuya and Shinjuku Train Stations June 2008
Voyages of Discovery

Halifax, Nova Scotia,Canada Left at the Curb, August 2011

Readers planning a visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia, may want to consider the accessibility status of that city’s public transit.

On July 26,  the Chronicle Herald in Nova Scotia, Canada posted an on-line news article focusing on the dismissal of a discrimination complaint filed by power wheelchair user, Ms. Mary MacDonald. MacDonald filed a complaint with Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission that centered on a Halifax bus driver’s refusal to board her on a bitter night three years before.  

As a wheelchair user, who follows worldwide access issues to report on this web site, I appreciated Ms. MacDonald’s plight and submitted the following letter to the Chronicle Herald, which they published on August 4.  

My letter sparked the interest of Judith Cabrita, Chair of Accessible Nova Scotia. In the spirit of fairness, I am publishing her letter below mine. I do find it interesting that Ms. Cabrita states that the newspaper’s article regarding Ms. MacDonald’s case was not based on actual facts, but she does not indicate that she followed that case or spoke with Ms. MacDonald before drawing that conclusion. I seriously doubt that the Chronicle Herald is known to publish fiction.

As with all travel planning, access is essential.  So in the hopes of making each travel adventure a successful one, I  urge readers to be proactive in researching the access features of their desired destinations.

Marti Gacioch,
Editor Global Access News

See Ms. MacDonald share her experience at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCwhyMp7YGY

Dear Editor:

As a longtime editor of Global Access News, a web site devoted to disabled travel, I frequently receive reader’s reports detailing their travel experiences and wheelchair access conditions in many worldwide destinations. 

Because of my interest in wheelchair accessible cities, I avidly read your July 26 article, “Discrimination Complaint Dismissed,” which focused on a Halifax bus driver’s refusal to board disabled Halifax resident, Mary MacDonald. It is beyond belief that the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission dismissed her case so callously after she waited over three years for their response.

Disabled travelers must often rely on accessible public transit wherever they travel, but, according to the aforementioned article, they can’t count on riding a bus when visiting Halifax where disabled residents can meet with such blatant and horrific discrimination.

I am posting this warning to my readers regarding Ms. MacDonald's incident, and I am urging readers to consider carefully whether they want to risk the possibility of being left at the curb in the cold by a Halifax Metro Transit driver.

Sincerely,
Marti Gacioch

Good Morning – a recent letter to the Editor of the Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Canada,  copied below, from Marti Gacioch was very disconcerting, particularly as Tourism is very important to Nova Scotia and  the a threat to warn disabled travellers based on a news report and not actual facts is disheartening to those working very hard to make Nova Scotia a totally accessible destination for both visitors and residents.  Please peruse  www.accessiblens.ca and http://nscbta.ca./ and on the later site http://nscbta.ca.s53023.gridserver.com/Transit-Contacts/ a map of current accessible transportation in Nova Scotia.

 While the reporting of the particular incident Ms. Gacioch refers to, in isolation, would be disturbing to the reader, you may be assured it heightened awareness and started a long process with positive results as reported to the media in a recent joint press release from the Nova Scotia government, Human Rights Commission, Metro Transit and two disabled passengers:

 From: CNS Release [mailto:release@gov.ns.ca] Sent: July 28, 2011 11:54 AM

Public transit improvements will soon benefit riders with disabilities in Halifax Regional Municipality. Late this fall, Metro Transit will launch major policy and operational changes to improve accessibility on all of its routes. Metro Transit worked with the Human Rights Commission and passengers Tammy Robertson and Michael Craig to help create many of these changes. Ms. Robertson and Mr. Craig, who both use wheelchairs, could not use most of the routes. Their experience reflected widespread frustration among people in the disabled community. When the changes are introduced passengers using wheelchairs will be able to use low floor buses serving any route, passengers who require attendants will have the attendant's fare included in their own and snow clearing at the Mumford and Dartmouth terminals will be improved and increased to a 24 hour priority.-30-Media Contacts:

Gerald Hashey Human Rights Commission 902-424-3132 E-mail: hasheygj@gov.ns.ca Lori Patterson Metro Transit 902-490-6609 Michael Craig 902-454-6859 or 902-476-8288 Tammy Robertson 902-789-1530

 Perhaps the two websites above would be a more positive addition to Global Access News and provide visitors with a resource to ensure their Nova Scotia experience meets and exceeds their expectations.

 Regards,
Judith Cabrita, Chair, Accessible Nova Scotia

Warning: Violence in South Africa July 2008  

Hilton Purvis and Loretta Jakubiec are residents of South Africa, who have frequently shared their travels with Global Access News. Recently, they submitted the following warning about safety in that nation. They believe that it is becoming negligent to encourage foreign visitors to tour parts of their country because violent crime is spreading rapidly, even into the national parks, and this latest incident shows that disabled people are vulnerable. Global Access News urges all readers to proceed cautiously if they are considering a visit there.

Attack on disabled visitor to Silvermine Nature Reserve (Cape, South Africa)

In June, three visitors to the Silvermine Nature Reserve in the Table Mountain National Park of South Africa were attacked by two men, armed with knives, which resulted in one visitor being stabbed. The attack took place during daylight hours on the accessible boardwalk trail circumnavigating the Silvermine Dam. One of the group of visitors was confined to a wheelchair.

The police were called, and arrests made, but it is disturbing to note that the security guard posted at the dam fled the scene, and was also subsequently arrested and questioned in connection with the attack. That this security guard might well have watched this group exit their vehicle, and load the wheelchair, knowing they faced attack is frightening. It has subsequently come to light that there have been numerous attacks, and narrow escapes, on visitors to Silvermine.

That the criminal element now sees fit to attack disabled people is a sign we, as a nation, have truly hit rock bottom. A browse through the South African National Parks website Discussion Forums reveals that other reserves are experiencing increased crime levels as well. I visit the Silvermine Nature Reserve regularly with my wife, it is one of the few nature areas in the Cape Peninsula, which is wheelchair accessible. Clearly no longer.

South African lovers of nature and the outdoors are seeing their parks becoming increasingly dangerous, with little being done to stop it. A “walk” on the mountain is now less about relaxation and fresh air, and more about caution and alertness. Sad times indeed.

Warning: Air France June 2008

Global Access News received the following letter from Mr. Prafulla and Mrs. Vaijayanti Dunung regarding their challenging experiences in March while using the carrier Air France. They submitted their letter to both Air France and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

RE: Air France Flight date: March 11, 08
Travelling from Mumbai to Paris, Paris to Chicago USA
Complaint addresses travel between Paris and Chicago ORD Fl/No. AF 050


To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing with regards to recent travel on your airlines.

My wife and I recently traveled on Flight AF 050 from Mumbai to Chicago via
Paris.
My 65 year old wife is handicapped with muscular dystrophy. With
significant assistance, she can walk slightly and very slowly for very short
distances. Walking up and down stairs is extremely difficult. We had
registered this information with your airline and requested a wheel chair
months in advance of the actual travel date.

When we arrived in Paris in route to Chicago, there was no wheelchair
available, and we were left waiting on the airplane for more than an hour.
After an hour, we were very rudely told no chair was available and she would
have to walk down 30 steps, a fact we told them was extremely difficult and
highly risky for her. Furthermore, it was raining and she was forced to
slowly walk down the very slippery stairs. We were drenched by rain as it
took her 25 minutes to descend the 30 steps. No Air France personnel offered
or provided umbrellas or even cared as we got rained on. No expressed any
concern for her safety or well being.

When we finally reached the bottom, the van was so high that a handicapped
person with limited ability could not get on. Additionally, there was no
ramp or other means to climb into the van. Again, no Air France staff
offered or provided assistance. I was forced to lift her feet one at a time
and hoist her onto the plane. I am 70 years of age and this was not an easy
physical task for me. At the tarmac for the next flight, she was placed in a
very unsafe wheel chair with no side rests or seat belt to ensure safety.
Handicapped people usually cannot control their bodies or prevent themselves
from rolling off a chair. This wheel chair with no safety restraints was
rolled into a small cabin and lifted up to the back of the plane. There were
no Air France personnel accompanying her at any point of this process to
ensure her safety. I was told to enter the plane through the normal
passenger stairs and was not able to protect her safety. During her ascent
into the plane, she rolled from side to side of the small carrying cabin,
bruising several ribs in the process. Once in the plane, no Air France
personnel apologized or provided ice for her injured body. We were flying
coach and were treated as if we were in the baggage compartment.

We are outraged by the callous, racist and discriminatory behavior of the
Air France staff. The staff indicated several times during the entire
journey that it was not their job to help her or assist in any way and
perhaps we should fly another airline next time. We are shocked that airline
staff would treat passengers this way, even in today's time when air travel
is becoming increasingly hostile to customers.

We trust that Air France does not intend to be a discriminatory airline
towards American and older, disabled adults as well as those from different
ethnic backgrounds. Unless Air France can demonstrate that it addresses the
needs of handicap travelers seriously, we and others with disabilities may
choose to fly other global airlines. We are informing the US Department of
Transportation of this compliant, along with a number of travel groups for
ethnic, adult and handicapped travelers. It's clear that Air France does not
want people like us to fly on them. It is most unfortunate that the national
airline of France chooses to treat people in this manner.

Best regards,
Prafulla Dunung

Voyages of Discovery Warning

Syd & June Burns, of Penrith, England, sent the following warning for disabled travelers.

Syd writes:We have been waiting for an outcome to our "planned" cruise through the Adriatic It was scheduled for Oct. 5th by a company called Voyages of Discovery. This company and ship splits its cruises between the USA and Europe, half a year each. We first saw the cruise advert in the prestigious Radio Times and thought it was for us. We booked a wheelchair friendly cabin and told the representative our needs and that appeared no problem. The deposit was paid and then the full amount. So far so good. Everything was completed in a most professional manner. A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that there was no mention of my requested lift on lift off the aircraft for June. We were flying from Manchester to Venice.

I spoke to a very competent customer relation’s man about our request and he suddenly said, "You do realise that because of health and safety regulations no member of the crew can assist you in any way". Balls, said I. what is the use of having disabled people onboard if you can't help them on or off the ship?" There are quite a lot of stops with this cruise, so that meant June would have been totally ship bound for the whole voyage. He said rules and regulations forbid it and then offered us our money back. We were totally outraged but never said anything until we got our hands on our money, in case we were the victims of some sort of a scam.

The money came in last week to our relief. We are now making the necessary complaints and put a word of warning out to possible travellers with this company.

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