Of Whiskey and China

Although I’m technically on holiday, I just can’t resist blogging. It’s somewhat addictive; plus I’ve received quite a lot of mail asking me to post my impressions about access in Ireland.

And to be honest, it’s hard for me to go anywhere and not take note of the access. Such was the case when we landed at Belfast City Airport and noticed accessible taxi cabs at the taxi queue. And I have to say that I’d recommend that airport as an entry point, as it’s easy to navigate and nicely accessible. Plus the employees were quite punctual at providing assistance — wheelers weren’t left waiting (and waiting) on planes to disembark.

As far as physical access in the cities goes, well it’s pretty typical of Europe – meaning that curb cuts are not ubiquitous and steps up to shops are found – but with a little planning it’s possible to navigate. I’m in Westport today and certainly the city has a few hills, so it wouldn’t be the best choice for wheelchair-users; however Belfast was pretty level and parts of it made for a nice walk. In fact, walking in Belfast is much easier than driving.

As far as the attractions go, a good lot of them feature accessible parking and ramped entrances, although the accessible entrance may not always be in the front, especially at historic attractions.

Contemporary attractions are a mixed bag. At Bushmills Distillery there are many steps and steep inclines on the tour, so it’s really not doable for wheelers or even slow walkers. But Belleek Pottery offers great access. They have accessible parking near the entrance, a barrier-free pathway to the visitors center and level access throughout the factory tour. And if you can’t manage distances, they have a free loaner wheelchair on hand. I highly recommend the tour as it allows you to get up close and personal (and even talk to) the craftsmen.

So if Ireland is on your wish list, I encourage you to pursue it. Like many other destinations these days, it’s most certainly very doable.