Monday, May 06, 2013

Disability Studies: Field Trip

Sitting waiting to check in, I got served several slices of life. Air Canada at Toronto's Pearson Airport, has a separate check in for passengers who need 'special assistance'. They have several wheelchair symbols over several check in stands. Flying Sunday was mad with passengers everywhere, most seeming confused. Joe got in the line up after sneaking me through the flex barrier so I could wait quietly. It seemed to make more sense that me going all the way round to the entry point.

So, I got to see:

A man and his wife sitting waiting. They'd already checked in and were waiting for someone to assist them to the gate. His wife walked, painfully, using a cane. She was getting frantic for getting to the gate, worried about missing her plane. They kept reassuring her that she'd get there and that they were getting people to where they were going as quickly as possible. Finally someone came, brought her a wheelchair and when they started the husband walked along side. "Are you travelling with your wife, sir?" he was asked. He said that he was. "Would you be able to assist her to the gate, now that she has the wheelchair, as you can see we are a bit overwhelmed today." He angrily stated that it wasn't his job to get his wife anywhere. And they were gone.



Later a group of young teens came in, same way I did, pushing a cart piled with luggage. They flopped down on some benches. One of the staff asked them if they needed assistance, "We're here with our Gran, she's in the line up." Now, Joe stood for me in the line up and here are these young people lounging around while a very elderly and very unsteady woman stood in line. It was a long line up but every single person saw that she was unstable on her feet and let her move ahead in line. She thanked them for watching her bags, two complained that they were bored.



An elderly man, who had been accompanied by a translator, probably two generations younger, and was leaving the gate being pushed by one of the staff. The translator asked the harried staff, they really were busy, if she could take a second more to say good bye and reassure him that he was going to make it to the flight. "He's been really worried all morning," she said. The Air Canada staff, stopped, said, "Please, go ahead," and calmly waited a few seconds for them to speak. He grabbed out and held the hand of the woman translating for a second, smiled, and they were gone.



Finally Joe was up front, we were checked in. We decided to go without assistance as it would be a long wait and between Joe and me, we thought we could do it. We did. I found a long portion of the way I was able to go along side a wall that had a hand grip along it so I could quickly pull myself along. There is also the escalators where I can hold on to the moving handhold and let it pull me along side. We've done this before, we know the tricks.

I was going to read on the plane but I thought mostly about my time there. It was like an intensive 'disability studies' class. I'm sorting through what I learned but I did realize that the disability experience my be most largely determined by those you have around you. Husbands, wives, grandchildren, staff and other care providers. I wonder about how some of my fellow disabled travellers did on their trip, some of them I worry, a bit, about what happens after the trip is over.


Anonymous said...

I'm had poor luck with Air Canada lately. This past winter I was travelling to visit family. My partner was going to see me off from Pearson... The Air Canada Representative, at no time, spoke to me but rather my partner (I am a wheelchair user-- they are seemingly able-bodied). This is even after I tried to engage him as I was to be the one travelling. Alas, not an isolated event.

jesse-the-k said...

Astute post (as always).