Sense and Disability

occasionally pink-haired traveller, often spotted with blue cane.

Archive for May, 2009


Posted by Chelsey on May 21, 2009

Can I please just point out– and after six trains in Belgium, I know– that Belgian trains have ridiculously high steps? And it’s not just me, when I returned home a friend of mine and I were discussing Belgium and he agreed. Epically high, a stranger pulling you up, nearly dropping your cane steps. It also does not make things better when you take the wrong train. Sorry if I expect the train on my platform five minutes before mine leaves actually goes where I need to go…

But that’s beside the point. I went to Belgium to meet Maude, another young woman with Dermatosparaxis. I stayed with a woman who had once been her tutor. At her house I got to know her very nice daughter and two granddaughters, as well as her study abroad student from France. I also got to talk with several people about disability attitudes and such.

Maude and I had very different upbringings. I am very lucky to have parents who see my disability as just another part of me, and let me live my life as ordinarily as possible– just with added bandages. Maude’s parents were more careful, and justifiably so. It’s a scary thing when the merest bump could lead to a long battle with infection.

But, I also learned how grateful I should be for American school inclusion and for my friends who never saw me as different.

One day while I was there my host and her exchange student took me to Bruges, an adorable city outside of Brussels. I used a wheelchair that day so that we could see as many sights as possible. They were very helpful, but I have to admit I cannot imagine being a wheelchair user on all of those cobbles!

I don’t have a lot of commentary on Brussels itself, we only went for one day. I can say that the Cathedral of Saint Michel is GORGEOUS and so much more awe-inspiring in person. Also, it has a handicapped bathroom, fun fact.

Travelling, though, is more than seeing he sights. It’s about cultural exchange. I got to speak French in my three days there, and that was so encouraging, to see that I could really manage. I also hope I got to inspire some thoughts about what a disability does and does not have to mean. I think that was part of my motivation for traveling in the first place….

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Posted by Chelsey on May 13, 2009

I was met in Copenhagen by Frederick, the boy I was couchsurfing with. I had flown in, been seen to the train by Wheelchair!lady and arrived in the Central Station on my own. He escourted me to his abode. It was a house converted into a sort of communal living place, ten people sharing kitchen and bathrooms. I can’t say it would be my ideal living situation as an adult, but he liked it.

Changing, I found the first roadblock in my trip. I had scraped my shoulder. Royally. Bloodily. Call my mom and freak-outily. But I managed to bandage it and hope that it would be okay for lugging my bags just two days later. I then went in search of the Little Mermaid Statue.

I wandered that freaking park for hOURS before I found her, perched on the rocks on the edge of the sea. I wandered through the little neighborhood at the top of the park, around and out. I had had such a tiring day of travel, and I thought about giving up, but I just could not do it. I had come to Copenhagen for the fairy tale elements and I wanted to see her. So I wandered.

Once i found her and found my way out of the park I seriously considered taking a cab back to Frederick’s. But I didn’t. I got on the train, then the metro, then the bus and found my way back. And aching feet and all, I was proud.

Copenhagen’s metro was tiny compared to what I was used to. Two lines, that connected with above ground trains. It was strangely sterile and automated with no friendly, if bored, voice telling me to ‘mind the gap’.

But it had lifts. Elevators. Little boxes that took me, my cane, women with prams, old men and bicycles up to ground level. What a thought!

My next few days were spent wandering the city with one of Fredrick’s friends, and then it was off to Brussels!


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Writing in Retrospect

Posted by Chelsey on May 11, 2009

Well, I’m home now, but I have decided to write this blog about my trip in retrospect. I just did not have enough computer access while travelling to write, so I’ll take it from here.

The last place I updated from was Edinburgh where I spent four days. Edinburgh is not really a city in which being mobility impaired is an easy thing. Lots of hills, and stairs. But you know what? Whenever I climbed a massive staircase or made it up a hill I was proud. Proud that I did something I should not have been ‘able’ to do. What that says, I am not exactly sure, but it’s the fact of it.

From there I went to Glasgow, where I saw P!nk in concert. Most of my time there was downtime, but for the concert. In the super-long walkway between the venue and the train a very drunk woman came up to me and asked if I was ‘doing okay’ and to tell her if I needed help. A very nice offer, but she looked as though she needed the cane more than I did at that point.

The next day I had to get up early for my train journey between Glasgow and Stansted, because I am an idiot who did not realize that Glasgow has an airport. Anyway, at my last change, from Peterbourgh to Stansted I noticed a sign next to the stairs at the station. “If you require assistance, please inquire at customer services inside”. I smirked at it as I hauled myself up the stairs, across the bridge, down the stairs. I had eight minutes to change trains. If I had needed assistance there is little way that I would have made it. Asking for help is not adequate replacement for a lift in this case.

Next up: Copenhagen

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