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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Disabled Travels

A powerchair userThis is a guest post by Jean Rasbridge, a disabled traveller who works for a UK Power Chair company.

I recently had a very pleasant stay with family who are working in elegant Qatar - I had been apprehensive about the journey itself, as well as travelling to a totally new country where I could not even say "Good Morning" ( I am ashamed to say). However I need not have worried, my fears about a non-disabled friendly trip and reception were unfounded.

I travelled from Terminal 3 at Heathrow, and was escorted from the check in desk by very friendly airline staff, to a quiet waiting area, and when the flight was called was accompanied again to boarding. My travel Power Chair was put into the hold after I was ensconced in a front seat, and the journey passed smoothly. On arrival my son had arranged for an amazing service! A lift brought the chair to the door of the plane, and I was then met by a member of a Visa handling service called Al Maha, and taken to a charming area where I was offered fresh juice, tea or coffee whilst the formalities were completed on my behalf without any anxiety on my part.

I was then taken through Customs, and my baggage retrieved and put onto a portered trolley whilst I sat comfotably in my little Power Chair, and then was then happily reunited with my family - a really stress free journey.

The small power chair I took with me for this journey can be taken apart easily and put into vehicles - and the dry cell batteries are safe for transport. The heaviest part is 27 Kg, so it is acceptable for carriers to transport either as a whole unit at under 50 kg, which most airlines will carry. However, it is important to check with your carrier before you book. I have often taken scooters on plane trips, but this is so much more manouevrable inside than a scooter. It has an off board charger and a range of up to 10 miles

I found Doha a really lovely place to visit (apart from the dust perhaps) - from the elegant promenade which was very wheelchair user friendly, the exciting souks with their unusual smells and scents, the beautifully embellished mosque, to the 5-star hotels which were also disabled friendly. The very modern and stylish malls were also designed for wheelchair access, though I did not see another single user! Most amazingly, in a country famed for its crazy driving, I did not see one disabled parking space that had been taken by an able driver.

While Doha was navigable, I can't say the same about the sand dunes - but then I guess that's not the government's fault.

I am looking forward to another trip, before too long...

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