We were off the plane. It had been a struggle to get up the ramp, but it had been managed. We fly a lot and this moment, the 'off the plane' moment is a difficult one. We always ask for assistance and most often, they don't show. Or rather, they show, see me, recognize that I'm a big man to push, and then disappear. Sometimes they will offer me a service I can't use. The cart that they bring is simply impossible for me to get on to, the step is too high, my balance is too poor. We were in that position, my help did not show, those there to help others who needed wheelchairs avoided eye contact, often in really obvious ways - as if they wanted me to see that they had no intention of helping.
I get that I'm a big man.
I get that it takes some oomph to push me.
But I wish, sometimes that people would think: Hey, he managed to get on a plane and get up the ramp, he must have strategies to do this, I wonder what they are.
But they don't.
A woman arrives, driving another cart. I roll over to her and say, "I really need help."
She stopped and said, "What do you need?"
I told her that I needed to get down to the baggage area.
She told me that she didn't think she'd be able to push me there, was there anything else that I would find helpful?
Finally! I told her that we needed someone to take the carry-on so that Joe could push me. She said, "What an obvious solution."
"Apparently not," I said, and we were off.
We chatted with her the whole way, and she guided us to where we needed to go. On one big ramp she watched as Joe took me over by the hand rail and I pulled myself up with my left arm as my right hand pushed me up and Joe braced the back and pushed when I pulled. We got up easily. She couldn't keep astonishment off her face.
We got what we needed, the exact help that we needed.
I need what I need and I know what I need. I'm guessing anyone else with a disability or who supports someone with a disability is equally expert in every situation they are in as to the help they need. It's a pity that our expertise is ignored in the face of assumption and presumption.
Right now, after a 5 hour flight and a six hour drive, I'm in a hotel. I'm about to make another 5 hour drive. We manage these things because we manage these things. When we ask for help, it's likely to be something that we know can be done - because that's the only thing that makes sense.