The Simon Heng column

Someone recently asked me if I was planning to take a break. I
realised that it’s five years since I’ve had a holiday. The main
reason is that I need another holiday to get over the effort of
planning and travelling. These are some of the hurdles in my

How do I know that my accommodation will be accessible? Unless I
know the dimensions of the corridors and doorways, I could travel
thousands of miles to find that I can’t get into my bedroom. I
can’t rely on brochures, or phone calls to proprietors: I once
turned up to a hotel after being reassured that there was level
access to all rooms. They forgot to mention the flight of 12 steps
to the front door. I get peace of mind by sending endless e-mails
asking for measurements.

You may think that checking in two hours before take-off is
inconvenient. I have to check in an hour earlier than that, after
negotiating with the airline about my extra six pieces of
“luggage”: shower chair, portable hoist, powered wheelchair,
wheelchair charger, collapsible mattress, and a case full of
hygiene supplies.

Wheelchair passengers are first on, and last off an aeroplane. I
transfer to a wheelchair which is designed to pass down the aisle
of an aircraft (I think the model for the design was a wheelie
bin). When I’m in the right place, airport employees lift me from
the wheelie bin to my seat – health and safety inspectors would
have a heart attack. I know that parts of me will get damaged: if
I’m lucky, only bruises. Only then are other passengers allowed on
board, some of them scowling at me for the delay. The flight itself
is usually OK, apart from taking two hours to get out of the

The routine is reversed at our destination, with the added
advantage that the airport employees probably don’t speak English,
making it harder to direct them.

At the end of an enjoyable holiday, usually in a place less
accessible than Britain, I can look forward to doing it all

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.