If you’ve ever travelled around the world in a wheelchair or with any other form of disability, like I have, then you’ll have no doubt been faced with numerous complications along the way – as attitudes to disability differ massively.
Just when you thought that everything would be perfectly fine within a western cultural setting – you stumble across something baffling which happens to you in the likes of New York City.
This blog post looks at some of the varying approaches to disability which occur in far off reaches of the globe. This is an opinion based piece, and of course it goes without saying that many different disabled people will be able to call upon their own experiences and thus may have a totally different story to tell.
Given that the world is extremely diverse and there are a lot of potential avenues to explore – we will focus on a few highlighted countries and examine how each are different from the other.
Within the country of New Zealand, disability rights and accessibility concerns are ever increasingly becoming an issue of contention – with more light being shed on the necessity of inclusion for all. What I found from my time spent in New Zealand is that there are a lot of great facilities for those with mobility needs – ranging from adapted car hire for disabled drivers, to one of the most accessible hotels I have ever stayed in, in the their capital – Wellington.
I was even able to find fully accessible accommodation in the most rural of parts, in the outback of the the South Island – where there is next to no one around, but still they took the time to ensure there was an all inclusive option for everyone.
Where New Zealand fails – they are sure to be working on making it better. There are still many inaccessible buildings within New Zealand, and this is something which the country will need to address moving forward. All in all though, attitudes towards disability in New Zealand were pretty good!
I’m sure many people would expect accessibility to be terrible in Cambodia if you’re a wheelchair user – and you’d be right. Aside from the occasional ramp that may be installed in a temple for aging Monks, there’s nothing in terms of quality accessibility. Maybe if you stay in a 5* hotel you might find yourself an accessible toilet, but during my stay in Cambodia I never came across a single one!
In terms of the people of Cambodia and their general approach to disability, I didn’t really have much of an issue on this front. Most of the people I encountered were really pleasant and friendly – even if their infrastructure wasn’t kitted out for disabled folk.
In summary, I’d give the people of Cambodia a great review for their general kindness and willingness to help, but I’d give the country itself, a poor rating in terms of access.
I felt like I was in paradise whilst in Japan and it was all because of one simple reason – no one stared at me. I’m used to people staring at me from around the world, but when I was in Japan I noticed that it just wasn’t the case.Whether it be a mark of their genuine respect for fellow human beings, or something else – I don’t know, but their attitudes to disability was a very welcome change.
Japanese people seemed to be extremely accommodating towards me in my wheelchair – with subway staff even escorting me from train to train to make sure I got around okay. Many of the buildings are modern, and come with accessible features. In general, I would say attitudes towards disabled people were excellent.
The USA is one of the founding nations when it comes to issues of accessibility and I’ve always held them aloft as the touch paper for anything new and innovating related to access and/or improving the lives of disabled individuals.
You can find a wealth of accessible accommodation types, restaurants, activities and more within the US – including the world’s first fully accessible and fully inclusive water park in San Antonio!
However – given the size and breadth of the USA, you’re sure to come across some horror stories, and I myself have had some negative experiences as a disabled person in the US. To give an example, I was once in a subway station where the elevator was broken and so had to shimmy my way up the stairs on my hands and knees. Had this been in Europe I would have no doubt had people rushing to me to ask if they could help – but in the NYC, I was harassed and told to move by angry passers by.
Overall I would say that attitudes towards disability are great in the US, but with some major causes for concern thrown in their too!
As mentioned before, these experiences are far more personal than gospel, and each individual that visits places such as these may have a totally different outcome.
For more articles like this, such as “Easy access travel; flying with a wheelchair” feel free to check out the Passionate People#s blog site through Invacare.