In the first week of December, I was invited to attend the European Social Entrepreneurship Forum in Tirana, Albania and present the work I am involved in surrounding disability, access and inclusion. After a few technical difficulties and only 8 minutes to deliver my message, the process was rather stressful indeed. But as a wheelchair user, I had not yet frequented the toilets at Tirana’s European University, the venue for the event…
How can I put it? I’m a curvy girl. The other participants at the forum absolutely got more that they’d bargained for when I had to crawl up the several steps and into the cubicle, arse high in the air and once posh pencil skirt now hitched around my hips. They also got a laugh or six when I attempted to open the cubicle door but instead wedged myself in on the floor, only able to cry for help in-between giggles.
You’ve guessed it, Albania is not accessible, but nor are Albanians shy. I was given assistance from many a handsome man only too happy to help and asked for a handful of selfies by the local girls; when you don’t often see those with disabilities populating the less-than-inclusive streets, it’s a true novelty to see one with pink hair and tattoos!
In short: Albania is stunning, with gregarious people, incredible food and a culture and history that all will find interesting. Go and enjoy it, just be prepared to be the disability exhibitionist of the century!