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Gini - disability arts online
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Disability Arts Online

Tokyo Christmas and New Year - getting there / 21 December 2014

Here I am in Tokyo again and feeling lucky to be here. Each time I take to the skies there are obstacles to overcome. Every single time they are different; somebody somewhere has fun shaking up T&C's for the ideal knife edge experience every traveller longs for.
The first thrill was that my ebooking was invisible to the airline flying the aircraft. Three companies were using this plane, each with their own system. I was advised to contact the plane owners 48 hours before the flight when all bookings became visible. But I could order a vegan meal.
48 hours before my flight the Special Assistance desk is closed; Special Assistance booking is not catered for on the weekends (the IDS effect? Or do disabled people just not travel on Mondays and Tuesdays?). Some handy techno-wizardry with 3-way IM and a telephone (thanks guys), left me reassured that Special Assistance was booked.

Trafik accident and resulting road closure delayed my actual arrival at the Special Assistance check-in where I discovered that Special Assistance hadn't actually been requested. But they had managed to order me additional vegan meals,  since the original order (lacto-vegetarian apparantly) was faulty, but couldn't be corrected.

Avoiding Special Assistance was a treat. Airline staff escorted me like I was a real sentient human being. Must remember that!
At the door to the aircraft there was a dramatic last minute attempt to turn me away by questioning the on-board safety of my wheelchair batteries. Someone had the bright idea that dry cell batteries were hazardous on board, his opinion carried weight and was hard to shake.
My batteries travel with me regularly. They have their own little safety covers to travel in. I handed one over to a Japanese-reading crew member who declared it to be a nickel battery (which is what rechargeable dry cell batteries are). No-one at the barricades had any knowledge of nickel batteries so after a silent stand-off, a sudden 'what the hell' and I was allowed through.
Onboard, I was looked after very well, a small crew skuffle about which of the two meal options to feed me was made up for by 4 extra blankets and a frequently refilled hot-water-bottle.

At Narita airport I was recognised by 'my' regular special assistance lady who was happy to welcome my unexpected (unbooked) arrival and swap her other duties to make sure I was safely collected by my very own personal assistance for the Skyliner train journey into Tokyo. 


Special Assistance at Heathrow
degenerates to that Special
understanding that interprets
people as baggage items to
be taken from A to B
with little regard for dignity.
Being human, requires being
alert to the perils of Special.
Living human is no rose garden;
though fertiliser is the dung
we share, it does more for roses.
Special roses like a good mulch.
Special human thrives without the
application of manure.