We are the Globe Rollers. We roll far and wide in search of tasty foreign treats, sandy beaches, mesmerizing architecture, and occasional 30 minute trips to museums. As for the rolling, we are on wheels. One of us by choice and the other by fate.
Allow us to introduce ourselves. Roxy is a 22 year old woman of fierceness. She grew up in Amsterdam and moved to NYC when she was 18. When she was 16 months old, circumstances led her into exploring the world by chair. Wheelchair, that is.
Madeline is a 23 year old self-proclaimed nut job. She grew up in NYC and has remained there her entire life. When she was three years old, she decided that she and her rollerblades were soulmates and since than, has left them on as much as possible. This includes sleeping, watching tv, walking the dog, or eating in a restaurant.
These two females rolled into each other at 18 years of age, in their first class at NYU. They’ve been rolling together ever since.
So here we are, 5 years later, traveling Eastern Europe together. As we roll along, we face obstacles and advantages both wheels based and not. But for the sake of our blog’s title, we will stick to wheels based subjects. This blog comes in three categories: 1) Accessible My Ass, 2) Wheelchair Card, and 3) The Wheels Deal. Let’s break those down.
1) Accessible My Ass:
Many places advertise their accessibility to those on wheels. However, we have found that 95% of them are either confused by the term “wheelchair accessible” or are just flat out lying. This includes restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and cities as a whole. So in this section, you will read about accessibility flaws from city to city, country to country.
2) Wheelchair Card:
Let’s not underestimate the power of the wheels. Roxy’s wallet’s most valuable card is the wheelchair one. Whenever we are faced with waiting on a long line or looking up a large flight of stairs, Roxy flashes her wheelchair card and we are instantly brought to the front of the line or carried up the flight of stairs. Just to be clear, a wheelchair card is a figure of speech. It does not actually reside in Roxy’s wallet, but in the gold rims of her wheelchair and her billion dollar smile. Almost everyone has a desire to do some sort of good in the world, even if it’s just in the smallest of ways. When we appear and ask a kind stranger to help us get up a flight of stairs, he or she is eager to check their good deed for the day off their list. Being on wheels certainly has its perks and we will be sharing these with you along the way.
3) The Wheels Deal:
This section is dedicated to our two cents. This is basically where we bitch about the harsh world and demand justice. But we’ll do it in a way so charming, that you won’t even know its happening. You’ll say to yourself, “aww those girls on wheels are so funny and bold”. But then some time later, maybe a day or two, maybe while you’re walking through the park, or climbing a flight of stairs, you’ll think, “wait a minute, those two have a point”! Wow, we’ve really set the bar high here. We hope we make you proud.
1) Accessible My Ass:
Air BnB is a well known travel website, with an option to help people find wheelchair accessible accommodations. There is a filter where you can set a price range, the number of people you are looking for an accommodation for, and certain requirements you need to have. Among these requirements is “wheelchair accessible”. When we found this, we were thrilled. This made our search so much easier. It made it possible for us to find an accommodation without having to make international calls to every single hotel/hostel listed and ask them about the status of their accessibility, or so we thought. We requested to stay in someone’s house in Istanbul for $30 a night and the home owner accepted. We wrote him an email asking him for directions to his home and mentioned that one of us is in a wheelchair. He wrote back minutes later saying that we could not stay with him. He gave us some half ass excuse about his dog being scared of wheels. We suggested us seeing if the dog warms up to the idea of dog loving people on wheels. He rejected this. We then suggested him putting the dog in another room when we come in and out of the front door. This was also rejected. In the end, we had to cancel the reservation and were fined $50 by air BnB for a late notice cancelation. How is a house with a wheels-hating dog “wheelchair accessible”?
We got smart the next time around and messaged home owners who claimed their property to be wheelchair accessible, before requesting to book a room. Four of these so-called accessible places denied us, and the fifth accepted.
When we got to our “accessible” accommodations, we were directed up the one-person-maximum elevator and entered our room. Everything looks great! Except there is a large step in front of our room and an even larger step in front of the bathroom. The bathroom step is so high, it’s even a struggle for Madeline OFF her wheels. Is this wheelchair accessible? Negative. But with great effort and 20 minutes of commitment each time, Madeline and Roxy manage to get Roxy and her thrown up to the pooper
During our transport to Istanbul, we skipped many a line at the airport.
Immigration lines, passport control lines, security lines, boarding lines, and taxi lines. Madeline is not used to this VIP type of treatment and was thrilled by the half hour it took to check in and board the plane. She got a little power hungry and with Roxy’s encouragement, put on her blades to roll along with her pal to the flight gate. This behavior was immediately corrected by an angry Turkish stewardess and she was forced to remove her wheels. Roxy’s reaction to this is usually, “so I can have wheels and she can’t?” But this time, we knew we had taken it too far and decided to politely oblige. The right to roll is an ongoing process. Baby steps (or baby rolls).
The Wheels Deal:
We accumulate many hilarious stories while rolling through this hilly and chaotic world. But sometimes, we laugh because it is our only option. There was no wheelchair on board our aircraft. It was a four hour flight and as most humans do, Roxy had to pee at some point during the journey. We were stunned when the flight attendant said there was no wheelchair on board and half-ass offered to carry her to the toilet. We decided to decline his semi-creepy offer and Madeline carried her friend to the bathroom. Like a bride.
We can either become bitter and angry at moments like these, or we can laugh and share these stories with entertained listeners. What is the aim of this blog? It’s here too amuse you. Its here to keep our loved ones updated on our adventures. But ideally, its here to shine some light on issues people in wheelchairs must face every day, particularly when traveling. People in wheelchairs should be able to stay in budget hotels and pee in privacy on airplanes. People in wheelchairs should be able to keep their wheelchairs with them at all times, instead of having them stowed underneath an aircraft where it is knocked around with the rest of the luggage and often damaged by the time it is returned to them. And unfortunately, skipping security lines does not make up for these types of barriers. No, Madeline’s wheels do not compare to Roxy’s. But traveling together has given her a certain insight to Roxy’s world. She feels the cracks of the sidewalks under her wheels just as Roxy does. She feels the resistance of hills and the resistance most of the world has against her rolling along side them. So the two of these rollers have teamed up to share this insight with you. Stay tuned and keep on rollin’.