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No wheelchair worries in London

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Posted Mar 09 2014, Posted By Ralph Jacobowitz

One of my housemates has MS and uses a power wheelchair to come into Soho. Last night we had a belated Christmas celebration in town, meeting up with other friends. It was my day off so I was at home. We headed out in the late afternoon, my housemate zipping along in his chair, me trying to keep up. I was astonished at how easily we made the journey. The bus to the overground had a ramp so there wasn’t any problem getting into the bus. When we reached the stop for the overground, daylight had faded and the driver didn’t realise that he had stopped with the exit door in front of a tree. Lots of people on the bus reacted immediately and let the driver know so he pulled forward to a clear space. My mate negotiated the train station with ease and the platform attendant couldn’t have been more courteous or helpful with the ramp into the train. He let the staff know at Victoria so that someone was there with a ramp.

Buying some food in the Victoria M&S and the bus into Soho were simplicity itself. Everyone was so terrifically helpful. I worried about having drinks at Compton’s in Soho, since my mate had had a bad experience in the past—bar staff rudely unhelpful, unable or unwilling to provide a ramp into the pub. If you’ve tried to attract a barman engrossed in pulling pints in a crowded bar, you’ll know that getting anyone’s attention is a chore. Not this time. This time, however, a barman immediately came outside. Our man fitted a portable ramp so that the power chair could make it up the steps into the pub. Five stars to Compton’s for training its staff!

After preliminary drinks we went to Ronnie Scott’s for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Staff members at Ronnie Scott’s went out of their way to help. They had been advised of our arrival and needs in advance. The steps, and thus the ramp, were very steep, but three staff members helped push the chair. The evening was a great success: the food delicious, the waiter cute, helpful and fun. Jazz is not my first love, but I definitely enjoyed it. The orchestra and soloists played with virtuosity and exuberance.

On the trip home we encountered not a hitch. Bravo to London and Londoners for making huge advances in coping with people’s disability needs.

Posted By Ralph Jacobowitz
Category: Soho Confessions
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