Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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Airline negligence regarding disabled passengers – not really News to us

Today, 7 people messaged me about an airline’s gross failure to accommodate a disabled passenger that made the news. Every time is like a mini punch to the guts. It’s not an awesome experience.

Before anything else, I appreciate that each and every one of them were thinking of me and wanted to share that fact with me. This is nice. I also hasten to say I’m not pointing the finger at any one in particular. I’m blogging it because it’s happened a lot over the years.

Sharing news of airline negligence is not a great way to do this though.

The fact is, I’ve been travelling by plane as a wheelchair user for near on 30 years. I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with airlines.

  • Damaged wheelchair
  • Lost wheelchair
  • Left stranded after I argued a ramp was needed
  • Missed connections
  • Uncomfortable announcements (e.g. Pilot saying on the comm that the plane is late because of a disabled passenger, as I was boarding)
  • Insistence that my service dog be placed under the seat in front of me
  • The list goes on.

See, I don’t know any disabled individual that has taken the plane more than a couple times who has NOT experienced airline and airport negligence. All of us have faced it. To more or less level of annoyance. Like… A Deaf friend of mine is routinely given a wheelchair because they asked for access.

And most of us are really aware of these things, whether the News is in our face or not. At least, if it’s in the News, we have choices of reading up on it, or not.

If well intentionned family, friends, and acquaintances push the News in our face, we lose that choice. It’s like a micro aggression. We’re often pushed to re-live our own minor or major bad experiences with air travel.

And if you have a handful, or more, people do the same thing over the course of a few hours, it becomes even more distracting and somewhat painful.

It’s a fine line and a big balancing act to find the right point between building awareness, and self-protection.