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Exploring the Emerald Isle

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News March 2019

Enchanting scenery, friendly people and fascinating history are all part of an accessible Ireland adventure.

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As I roll off the train in Belfast, Ireland, a man with strawberry-blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes asks me, “Do ya need help, m’ love?” My duffle bag on my lap has gained weight since I left the U.S. I consider his offer for a few seconds and say, “Sure, thanks.” I let him lift the heavy bag from me. My plan for this 10-day wheelchair-accessible journey is to visit a little of Northern Ireland for my friend Diane Johnson to research her ancestry, then head south to places I want to check out in the Republic of Ireland. Carrickfergus is our first destination. We hire a cab owner, who spends the day with us. I transfer into the front passenger seat (driver’s side in the U.S.), and he fits my manual chair in the trunk with ease. He takes us around to Diane’s requested cemetery and homestead stops, including a visit with a “wee” woman who knows history about Diane’s ancestors. Before we meet her, I ask our driver if “wee” means she is tiny. “No,” he says, puzzled that I would ask. “It’s just a [softer] expression,”  one widely used across the Emerald Isle, I note, especially in the north.

From inside the taxi, he points out tourist spots along the way, such as the filming location for the TV series Game of Thrones, which is blocked off for most, but our driver knows how to access the back side for a view. At the end of the day, our driver takes us back to Belfast, where we stay at the Hampton Inn on Hope Street, one of the most thoughtfully designed accessible hotels in which I’ve ever stayed. The lobby and restaurant are roomy and easy to navigate. The room is spacious, and there are three sets of grab bars in the shower, an attached bench and more grab bars by the toilet in the large bathroom.


 

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Exploring the Emerald Isle

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