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Dutch Rail and specialised taxi transportation network Valys do not meet the requirements for adapted travelling with a wheelchair

Written by Huib, published Tuesday April 10th, 2018

After the amputation of both her lower legs my good friend Carla felt liberated. The pain was gone, she suddenly could do things again and was no longer trapped in her house. So she was also able to make train trips again and go in her wheelchair to museums, friends or table tennis tournaments. The Netherlands has all kinds of laws, regulations, procedures and protocols for accessibility to public transport, which are carried out in collaboration by Dutch Rail (NS) and specialised taxi transportation network Valys.

“So everything will be fine,” one would think. Which should be logical, because everything is paid for by both Dutch and European taxes. The House of Representatives has already commissioned this in 2005. The Netherlands is still regarded by people in many other countries as the role model of tolerance, progressiveness and social awareness for the vulnerable in society. This tragicomic travel report, told by Carla anno 2018, however, paints a different picture. It will be published in three parts and will also include an invitation to both organizations to implement some improvements. The movie is in Dutch, but subtitled in English.

“The three core needs of our travelers are control, appreciation and freedom. They determine how they experience their train journey. We want to optimize the experience of the train journey through valuable service and personal and intuitive services.” NS annual report 2017

First train ride of 2018

“Requesting assistance to enter the train with an electric wheelchair has to be done via a website of the NS. If you do not do this at least an hour in advance, you will not succeed. But there was an error on the site. After five attempts I decided to call NS and I requested the assistance for this trip by phone, which is not very pleasant because I have to remember everything.

I can not use the train station in my neighborhood, because there is no assistance. So I have to go a bit further with my Canta. At the Sloterdijk station the only lift to platform 6 was out of use. Fortunately, there were enough employees at the station that I could ask to help me, so I could still take the elevator to be on time for my train.

When I entered the train, everyone simply sat on the wheelchair spot. Meanwhile, after 7 years of wheelchair, I have learned that you should not be shy, but rather assertive. So I exclaimed: “Yes people, that is a wheelchair space, so I want to take a seat there“. A woman reacted with ‘Oh is that so? I just do not know about that yet’. Another woman walked away angry after my words. A third woman remained seated, while I really need three places for my wheelchair. I literally ran her off the seat.

After more than an hour on the train I arrived at the station where I had to be. The assistant who placed the bridge, with which I could leave the train, immediately informed me that the lift was broken. I thought ‘Hey, didn’t we just had this?

But here the elevator was broken as well. That meant that I could not get off the platform. The assistant came up with the idea that I could take the next train to Rotterdam Centraal and take the train back again. This way you arrive at the other platform, where the elevator did work. I called the NS again for assistance at Rotterdam and later at this station again as well. Fortunately, this could be arranged within an hour. The man on the phone has asked me six times if the elevator was really broken and if I had pushed its button, both on and above the platform. That is quite impossible in my position.

In the end, I was told nicely that I could stay in the train in Rotterdam Central, because it would be driving back. The nice conductor came to tell me that if there was no assistance later on, he would help me out myself.

Something special happened during the return journey. Two passengers got off after a few stops, but the man got back in yet and came to me and asked me ‘may I bless you?

At first I thought skeptically ‘what is going to happen now?‘, But I doubtfully said ‘yes‘. He gave me 10 euros in my hand and said ‘blessing you, you are great‘. I felt that I could not refuse his blessing, so I assumed it with great embarrassment. I thought it was a very sweet gesture. ”

Carla’s next adventure will be posted on this blog in a few days. Could you kindly you help to get her story read by the the Dutch NS and Valys, or the national equivalent 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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