Ms. Bießmann, to what destinations and how do you prefer to travel?
Jenny Bießmann: I prefer to fly to countries where it’s warm, so anything south of Austria is fair game. Planes make it possible to be quickly at my vacation spot, even though I always worry a bit whether my power wheelchair will get there safely. One of my favorite countries to visit is Turkey. I have been there 27 times already. My 28th trip is planned for the end of May. It’s so nice and warm there and the people are very hospitable and really helpful. The hotels are also accessible enough for my needs and I am able to enjoy long walks on the beach boardwalks of Side.
What is the most important aspect for you when you travel?
Bießmann: The accommodations have to be accessible, meaning they should have no steps and feature a roll-in shower stall. In the country itself, I need to be able to travel by public transportation or the taxi to get from point A to point B without any issues.
You might encounter many obstacles,from booking your trip to getting there, all the way to the accommodations and the situation on site. What have been your experiencesso far?
Bießmann: I always book my flight and hotel online. I subsequently let the respective accommodation facility know explicitly that I need to have an accessible room. So far, there has never been an issue and I also didn’t have to pay more than people without a disability pay for their rooms. Even getting there has so far never been a problem. My power wheelchair has always arrived intact. That’s why my flying experiences have always been positive.The same goes for the accommodations. I honestly also have no actual reason to complain about the options on locationso far – whether it’s on European soil in Barcelona, Amsterdam or Lake Constance or in Asia or the Orient. The busses, as well as most of the tourist attractions, are wheelchair accessible.
In which countries did you have particularly great or bad experiences?
Everything was perfect during my Oriental cruise on the Costa Fortuna. Costa Cruises is the only cruise line where people with a documented disability indicating in their passport that they require personal assistance services, are able to take their assistant or travel escort along free of charge. The Dubai Metro is 100 percent accessible. It has accessible taxi cabs and people with disabilities have no problem visiting any of the tourist attractions. I was so excited about this cruise that I could definitely see myself traveling this way to the Caribbean in 2017.
What do you expect from the travel and tourism industry?
Web portals should always indicate directly whetheraccessible rooms are available. And if they are, the hotel should not charge extra! The shuttle from the airport to the hotel should also be easy to book and usable for persons using power wheelchairs. And it should also not be too expensive.
I would like to see and request that airlines finally make it possible for people with assistance needs to be able to use the restrooms on board – meaning, airlines should makea place to lie down available for example. And further down the line, I would like to no longer have to change seats and stay in my power wheelchair during flights.