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Carla’s travel adventures (part 2)

Written by Huib, published Thursday April 12th, 2018

The article ‘NS and Valys do not meet the requirements for adapted transport for people in wheelchairs‘ was the start of a triptych about adapted transport in the Netherlands. Here you can read the second part, told by Carla. She travels in an electric wheelchair because she lacks an arm and her two lower legs. So she needs assistance from the Dutch Rail ’NS’ and she uses the Valys taxi service. In March, the tender was awarded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport for an amount of 60 million euros. How well does it all work?

Second train journey in 2018

“I had to get up early, because at 7:17 AM the train would leave. I could not find the elevator to the platform where I had to go. There was no elevator. Fortunately, the assistance provider, who was already standing on the platform, saw me and he knew where to take the elevator. That was at a totally different spot, which was not indicated. The train ride to The Hague Central went well.

Although I actually had to go to The Hague NOI, but during the request for assistance a few days before, the website of NS gave notice that this train station did not exist. Which is strange, because that station has been around since 1843. So I call the NS again: “Yes, sorry, the station does exist, but there is no assistance. So it does not exist “.

At The Hague Central Station I took the tram for the first time. I had read that it was accessible to wheelchairs and fortunately that turned out to be true. (always exciting, when that happens). I arrived at my terminal in good spirit, but when I wanted to take the elevator to get off the cold and lonely platform, it did not work. 2018 is clearly becoming the ‘year of the lift’.

So I call the number of the lift-central. The one I got on the phone ensured me that a mechanic would come somewhere that day, but I was not really helped with that message. So his advice was to take the next tram, change at the next stop, drive back and take the elevator across the station. That meant ten minutes waiting in the cold, on the next tram in the cold and at the next station again 15 minutes.

Then another search for a lift followed and I almost fell out of my wheelchair, because the exit from the pavement was too dangerous. Fortunately, the other lifts did work and I have a catheter, with which I can ‘pee wildly’. It was full due to the extra time. I also did not pay for the extra tram rides that I had to take. So besides ‘urinating’, I also ‘illegally hitched a ride’. I was not even fined.

The return trip that evening went well, even though I had to wait for over an hour at the train station, because you need to request assistance at least an hour in advance. That may also be adjusted, I think. Or would the idea be that wheelchair users or people with other disabilities have plenty of time anyway and can still enjoy themselves wherever they are?

Maybe that is why the spot for disabled people is chosen right next to the smelly toilet, where people also vomit after a night out? I could enjoy that recently. For most people, a toilet is the place where they dispose of their excrements and urine, often leaving  the door open afterwards. So it is not the most pleasant place to sit next to. The assistance said that I am not the only one to does not like that much. So I always ask to be able to sit next to the bikes, because a bicycle gets a better service, a nice view from the window and less smell than a wheelchair user.

Yesterday I was parked on such a bicycle spot. There was a woman with a bicycle, who was very insulted that I was sitting there and asked if I could not leave. I had seen that there were other places to park bicycles. In addition, I could not go anywhere without assistance with the ramp bridge.

But misses had to park the bike there. So she put that (% # @ *) thing right against me and went herself in the warm coupe. I told her that I did not find this safe. If a bike falls on me, I have a problem. But that did not matter to her. It would be nice if people realize that. I pay as much as the other passengers, but I have to sit in the hall, where the door always opens. ”

Third train journey

“Traveling by train to a museum in Rijswijk went well. The only bad thing was that I had to wait over an hour in the cold, before the taxi arrived. Because that’s just the rule. I also had to wait an hour for the train (the same rule). I did have a nice young wheelchair taxi driver, who – to my surprise – knew a lot about the limitations that people with disabilities encounter on their travels. “

Fourth train journey

“I had agreed with a friend to go to a museum in Haarlem. Because there are two museums close together, we could maybe go to both. Good fun!

I went to Amsterdam Sloterdijk station with my Canta, while my friend was coming from Central Station to Sloterdijk. Then we would drive to Haarlem together with the train.

The reservation for assistance I had done a few days in advance. When I arrived at the station and stood in line to sign in, two assistance providers came to me excitedly. I already know one of them, so she knew that I was the one they had to assist. “The elevator is broken!“, shouted not two, but three people. Because in the meantime it was my turn at the counter and the lady behind the counter was shouting in chorus. This is already another umpteenth lift this year.

They had fortunately already ordered a wheelchair taxi for me. I indicated that I would travel with a friend and luckily she was allowed. The taxi, however, could only be there in about an hour. We had enough to chat, so the hour passed quickly.

The taxi driver was unfortunately a grumpy elderly man, who immediately told my friend that he had only one person on his form. In the end she was allowed to join. He did not fix my wheelchair properly, either, because he forget to connect one tire to the floor. Because he was so grumpy, I did not want to say anything about it. We were not yet gone or my wheelchair tilted backwards.

It gave me a right scare, but fortunately I could grab hold of something with my good arm just in time and move my weight forward. I called for him to stop and secure my wheelchair. His reaction was “No, you can not tilt backwards“. My counter reaction was “Yes, I can and that just happened.” Fortunately he stopped and secured – now even more grumpy – my wheelchair well.

For the return journey I have been called five times by NS assistance with again and again the announcement that I had to take a few trains later or yet a train earlier, no again later. Because in the meantime it was rush hour and the other travelers get priority.

Also such a nice rule: able-bodied passengers have priority when it’s busy. Fortunately, the museum was worth it, after we finally found the entrance without stairs. Visiting the second museum, of course, was no longer possible.

Carla’s next adventure will be posted on this blog in a few days. Could you help to get her story read by the #NS and #Valys, or possibly also the national equivalents in your own country, by sharing the article on Social Media and tagging both companies?

Huib Kraaijeveld, MA

Author of ‘Shifting the Lyme Paradigm‘, chairman of the On Lyme Foundation and founding member of the Ad Hoc Committee for Health Equity in ICD11 Borelliose Codes

If you found this article worthwhile, would you like to take a look at the crowdfund campaign that serves to finance my work in a sustainable and honest way.

drs. Huib Kraaijeveld

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