“Excuse me, I’m down here!”


I recently went to Brussels as I was invited to attend a healthcare workshop. My sister came along as my carer so we combined business and pleasure!

Anyway, an incident happened to me while I was there which I can’t talk about for legal reasons (I’ve always wanted to say that!) and as a result the hotel staff were falling over themselves to make us happy.

The strange thing was how they reacted to me on my scooter. We were at the reception desk and the receptionist directed questions about how I was to my sister and completely ignored me! My sister, who normally has no problems with asserting herself, looked at me and then the receptionist with her mouth open in disbelief. I was also speechless and sat there, wondering if he could even see me! This happened a few times after that with different staff members and I felt like saying, “excuse me, I’m down here!”

I felt a combination of emotions but the main one was amusement at their ignorance and apparent backward thinking.

I’m not used to this at all. I use a Travelscoot (www.travelscoot.com) and usually get nothing but an overwhelmingly positive response from people. I get approached nearly every time I go out by disabled people or their carers asking where I got it and how much it cost. Other people comment on how nifty and cool it is or take down details. I feel like I’m doing a public service to disabled people and should be paid commission! In all these encounters people direct comments and questions to me and I feel validated and positive as a result so why didn’t I feel like this in Brussels?

Is it because we’re more tolerant and disability confident in the UK? Surely there must be disabled people in Belgium! Is it due to lack of staff training and general awareness that the disabled are real people not invisible burdens? Or was it the incident that horrified and embarrassed the staff combined with the terror of my sister’s wrath (she scares me sometimes)

Anyway, I’d love to hear your stories. How did it make you feel; amused, upset or angry? Is it different abroad?

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4 thoughts on ““Excuse me, I’m down here!”

  1. Hi Abi,
    All it takes is one set of insensitive idiots to make any situation leave you with a flapping jaw (and even after living in Brussels for so long t is still a daily occurrence ) BUT I will say a word of defence for my adopted city. I’ve trundled around the city using my Travelscoot for a few years now and am always surprised at how helpful people are. Concept of dropped kerbs – and joining the dots to realise that if you drop a kerb on one side of the road, you need a matching dropped kerb on the opposite side- less so. Maybe learning how to swear in French before I could have a conversation in French was a sensible approach. That and I have perfected the Gallic shrug of the shoulders that gets things done. I find some things done so much better in the UK but other times I like the more laid back approach here. Distinct lack of ‘ the customer is always right ‘ here never gets easier ( maybe that’s another reason I swear in French too much). I’d like to think you were dealing with a useless, insensitive person rather than a typical member of the service industry. This country has many, many issues but overall there’s definitely worse places to visit. Ps good luck with getting a response to your complaint this side of Christmas..

    • Thanks for your comment. I think you’re right and maybe they just need training.
      I didn’t get a chance to trundle around the city unfortunately but the station and Eurostar staff were brilliant

  2. I’ve just returned to the UK after living in France for almost 10 years. I am a permanent wheelchair user. The concept of customer service is completely unknown in France, obviously it is the same in Belgium. Anyone coming to the house to do anything would ignore me and would talk to my husband, even though I was the fluent French speaker!

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