Not having access to my wheelchair on a airplane | A human right that's overlooked
Me sitting in my wheelchair on a plane is a human right that’s overlooked
We can travel to the moon and find an algorithm to see black holes but we can’t put a wheelchair on a plane? WRONG. We don’t want to put a wheelchair on a plane.
Disability access is slowing trucking its way down the proverbial road to inclusion — straight down the boulevard of broken wheelchairs + mobility aides.
I have a fear of flying. A tingly stomach fills me up when I book any flight, and as that date approaches — where you should be excited to be on vacation — the unsettling tingly feeling gets bigger. If you have an inherent fear of flying or heights, this isn’t that. It’s the feeling of knowing you can’t have the one thing you’re the most independent and comfortable in. It’s knowing your ass will be numb on the 5 hour flight to Las Vegas because your extra cozy wheelchair seat cushion that was selected specifically for your ass is chilling in the belly of the plane with all the luggage. It’s you watching your lifeline (that costs 45k) be balanced on a conveyer belt that is the same width as your wheelchair by 5 men trying to “jimmy” it through the small door the luggage goes through. It’s asking your travel partner to adjust you every 5 min because your entire body hurts. It’s not knowing whether the employees at the destination will know how to care for your chair and get if off safely. It’s receiving your chair after they remove it from the plane while holding your breathe to see if it turns on or it’s missing a wheel.
It turns on, phew. I can enjoy my vacation. That scenario happens less than this: they completely shattered my wheelchair and now what’s left is what looks to be a broken transformer and now I have to be immobile until insurance fixes it 3 months later.
Disability activists have talked about this A LOT — yet little has been done and the conversation feels dull. It seems that only disabled people care about this issue & it’s upsetting. Put yourself in our shoes (seats) and picture having to have anxiety about mobility issues every time you went on a plane. Picture someone taking your legs away and saying you can’t have them for the plane ride and if we accidentally break them when we put them in the pit of the plane with the luggage, you can’t have them back for 3 months until insurance fixes them. This is the reality of traveling with a wheelchair.
There’s already enough stress and logistics to figure out when traveling as far as accessibility — I should at least be able to have a pleasant flight.
For me personally, I’m almost completely immobile when I’m not in my chair. I can’t move my arms or head much and I cannot swallow because I need to be in a very specific position to swallow. My ass will become numb in a matter of 5-10 min and I’ll need constant repositioning. So this means, no eating or being even semi comfortable on a plane.
Those who are super dedicated to traveling will bring hand-crafted car seats and cushions they made so that they can withstand the flight without their wheelchair. They’ll put signs and notes on their wheelchair, giving direction on how to handle it without it turning into a broken transformer. While I commend them on their determination and diligence — it sounds like a bloody headache. It’s also something that shouldn’t be necessary.
I imagine airlines meet once a year to discuss the thousands of dollars they had to pay in wheelchair repairs that their airline butchered. I picture it going something like this:
“It’s a small price to pay when disabled people hardly travel anyway because it’s hard enough, let’s be more careful next time. It’s cheaper than taking out a bunch of seats on airplanes and less of a headache to just keep things as is.”
Dear Mr. Airline CEO, screw you. My comfort and travel abilities are worth way more then a little logistical planning and government / private assistance needed to fix the damn issue for good that I know, we as a society, are capable of.
Able-bodied people, we need your help. You outnumber us (uncomfortable on airplane) disableds & our advocacy needs to be echoed by your voice. Raise it. Help us be able to enjoy travel with equal access.