Thursday, October 09, 2008


It started in Buffalo. I have come to dread flying as an 'assistance needing' guy. I find that the people that are hired to help me are often a source of stress than a source of assistance. First off, they always arrive pushing a wheelchair. It seems that most people who need assistance are those who simply can't walk long distances and therefore use an airport wheelchair. When they show up and I'm in my own chair, they are resentful. They have to leave their chair behind in order to push me. For some this is very difficult and they can be overtly angry about it. We've learned to counter by saying, why not have Joe put our carry on luggage in your chair and he'll push it. Others see my weight and don't want to have to push someone so large. We offer them the option of taking the luggage and Joe pushing me, but most often they take a huge sigh and the resentfully grab hold of the handles behind me to push.

I used to like travel move. I wonder about people who apply for the job of helping people and then get angry that people need help. I wonder, I do. But I'm looking backwards. In Buffalo, an older guy comes to help me. He greets me smiling. OK, that's odd, nice but odd. Then on the way he asks if I'd like to stop at the gift shop or the rest room. No one has ever offered me the opportunity to either shop or pee. I told him that I appreciated, really appreciated, the choice. He said that it only made sense to him, particularly when people got off planes. The bathrooms on planes are not famous for their accessibility after all. Nice guy, great attitude, good flight.

Arriving in Boise there the person who was supposed to pick me up, didn't show. Joe and I decided to make a go of it on our own. We stopped in a gift shop for some post cards and were spotted by a young, quite heavy, guy. He asked if we were the ones who had called for assistance. We told him we were. He waited with us as Joe made the purchases and then on we went. He asked a few questions and the organized our time. We got the rental car first, because the luggage was on the way to car pick up. Then we got luggage, for which he scoped out and found a cart for the suitcases. Finally he took us right out to the car. I am usually dumped with the luggage, no one has ever taken us right out to the car before.

I felt like the Disability Spirits were watching over me on this trip. Reminding me that it is possible to give support without giving attititude. Reminding me that it was possible to have an interaction that leaves both feeling enriched. A great way to start a couple days of lecturing.

Thanks guys - positive support begins with positive attitudes.


Caroline said...

Glad you had a good experience - I just find it a bit depressing that it's a novelty - the difference between good and bad in this sense amounts to a smile and a bit of empathy - surely not so hard to do?

william Peace said...

Airline service has declined severely in the aftermath of 9/11. Stories about the lack of service, dirty planes, and rude airline employees abound. I consider air travel services for disabled people substandard if not purposely discriminatory. I for one deeply resent being treated poorly and having to pay for the experience. When I fly I feel as though I am going to battle and assume I will encounter needless problems and be subjected to blatant discrimination. Sadly, I am rarely disappointed.

Rosemary said...

I can walk, but not any great distance. When we travel by air, I really do need a wheelchair through the airport, but I say no. Why? because I am large and often the wheelchairs are too narrow. Also, I feel uncomfortable for the skinny person who has to push me.

ursulahmee said...

Dave.... sometimes the simplest statements are so wise...
I love "it is possible to give sopport without giving attitude"
Who do we think we are anyway?
Isn't our purpose to serve?