Accessibility

Which is hardest to get into, the United States, or a UK book festival?

This is not a trick question. It must be quite obvious that US Immigration is easier to navigate than a gatekeeper at a literary festival.

I was reading – in the Bookseller – in the disability edition in October, about the author who walks with the help of crutches and therefore can’t always stand for long periods. She asked for a ‘queue-jump pass’ – I didn’t even know they existed! – but discovered that without ‘proof of benefits’ she couldn’t be given special treatment.

Well, I’m glad they defend those book festivals.

I don’t stand well either. This is one of my major problems. Not that I am impatient, just that the standing feels like it could be the end of me.

It might have become obvious to you that the Bookwitch family travelled recently. We had a wedding in Texas to attend, and between you and me, Texas was not high on my list of expected places to end up in. But why not? We booked a flight to Austin.

But then the mother of the bride warned how long they had had to queue, arriving off the same flight. Two hours! I couldn’t do that!

After much panicking I did what the airline suggested and contacted them for help. I said I didn’t need a wheelchair, nor did I want to be assisted all the way. I just wanted a swift way through immigration. (Don’t we all?) They said they could do this [and was there anything else I needed?], and said for me to look for my waiting helper when disembarking. That was a little hard, as there were so many of them, all with wheelchairs. I tugged the shirt of the last one in line and asked him to leave his wheelchair behind and come with me.

So, maybe his trousers could have been better attached, but he chatted nicely about weddings as we walked, allowed us a visit to the restroom and single-handedly identified our suitcases off the conveyor belt. (That’s something the Resident IT Consultant would find difficult.) And then he nodded in a friendly manner to all officials and they nodded back and ushered us through, because we were with him. The immigration officer was nothing like I had been led to expect. He couldn’t have been lovelier or friendlier or more helpful as I was fingerprinted. He greeted Daughter like a friend, because she’d been before [not in Austin].

And then we were out. Or in, as it were.

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