A weekend in Paris 18 months ago would have seemed very straightforward. But the pandemic and BREXIT have brought new challenges. This blog takes my weekend trip to Paris as a case study and analyses some key aspects of travelling there and back. For some, post pandemic travel is not always straightforward!
Booking the tickets
I travelled with Eurostar and booked using their iPhone app. The app was generally user-friendly. However, there are some key things that would make using this for a blind person easier. For example, choosing the class of ticket meant clicking on icons which Voiceover couldn’t display clearly. Tick boxes or clickable buttons would be much better. I also couldn’t get my Apple Pay to work on the app, which was annoying but not terminal. A real positive though was being able to save my tickets directly to my iPhone’s wallet.
Assistance during the journey
Eurostar encourages you to book assistance in advance, which I recommend. This must be done by phone. The assistance in London was great and very personalised. For example, the member of staff had no hesitation in asking me whether I wanted to buy a coffee whilst waiting. However, the assistance in Paris was less so (a seemingly kind exterior with an underlying desire to follow all rules and processes to the letter at the expense of quality customer service). London should really be Eurostar’s blueprint.
Completing the paperwork
Entry in to France requires completing a sworn statement regarding COVID. This is a straightforward Word or PDF document, although a signature is required. For accessibility, an online version with checkboxes would be more accessible. Returning to the UK requires a passenger locator form, which though accessible, is not to be done in a rush! CrystalEyes recommends setting up an online account so that key details, such as your passport number, can be set up in advance.
I had to undertake a pre-departure Lateral Flow Test 72 hours before returning to the UK and a PCR test two days after my return. Both were inaccessible for different reasons. The Lateral Flow test required me to be videoed by a nurse to ensure that the test was taken properly. I then had to upload a photo of the test with my passport to a verification site in order for my certificate to be issued. Ensuring you can be seen during the test and that the photos you submit are adequate are clearly impossible for a blind person.
The PCR test was not much better. All the instructions were in print and the form had to be completed using pen and paper. Again, this is not accessible for a blind person.
Despite all of these hurdles and with the support of a sighted friend it was worth it as I had a lovely weekend away.