Monday, September 18, 2017

Again

Once again, and I know this is hard to believe, a fellow passenger attempted to steal my wheelchair from the door of the aircraft. My chair is old, well worn, and easily identifiable as a personal chair. It bares faint resemblance to the airport chairs. But just as I was told that my chair was up, a flight attendant noticed that it had disappeared and sent the gate agent fleeing after the people who took the chair. No one sat in it, no one has any idea why it was taken, but the fact is that it was. The fact also is that this is now the second time my chair has been taken from the door of the craft.

Second.

Last time it was when we landed in Buffalo and the security guards got the chair back as they were putting it in the trunk of their car. I kid you not. That time I got the chair back without the foot pedals, this time my chair was intact.

But I'm not.

I'm really not.

I find, and found, this incredibly traumatizing, so much so I can't even begin to tell you.

Every time I get on a plane I tell the purser about what happened in Buffalo, and now will add Vancouver to the list, and ask them to keep a sharp eye on my chair. That's what happened and because of that I have my chair.

I go into deep panic when I think about the 'what if's' ...

Don't people know that?

Why doesn't it matter?

The psychological pain that this causes me is deep and real. I don't know what I'd do. I'm fat, I fit my chair, it's not easily replaced.

Now I'm afraid of the next flight and the one after that ... I'll never feel safe again when traveling by plane.

Ever.

Again.

7 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

That is unbelievable, that the airline can't manage to make sure your chair isn't stolen before you get off the plane.

Maybe you could tell them what will happen and how much it will cost them to replace it and take care of you until they do? There has to be some responsibility somewhere.

Jenni said...

I do safety for a living and have applied a risk management approach to my life since I became disabled. I know you didn't ask for advice, but maybe they might help you or other readers.

Are there measures you can put in place that would make you feel safer? Examples I can think of include putting big labels on your chair, just for airplane trips, to say 'Dave's chair', and your mobile number (you can get a sim just for this purpose, so you don't get crank calls on your real mobile). This means it cannot be mistaken for an airport chair. If you feel able to, perhaps add a photo; just the presence of pictures of eyes can reduce crime, see http://www.businessinsider.com/british-police-using-pictures-of-eyes-to-stop-crime-2015-8?IR=T. Both of these would also make your chair more obviously related to a person, so it's not a 'victim-less crime' to move it.

If I were in your situation I'd also do the research on how you to cope if the chair gets moved / lost and to get another chair, so you don't have to worry about how that would work. Things that might help is a printed photo of the chair, showing all the parts, that you can give to the member of staff trying to retrieve it. I haven't done alot of research, but it seems like you can get GPS trackers for bikes - maybe you could get one fitted to your chair? http://www.cyclingweekly.com/group-tests/find-your-stolen-bike-with-a-gps-tracker-165579 (if yes - add this to your sign, even if you don't actually fit one!) I'd also bring details of a wheelchair loan company in the town I was visiting, so I'd have a plan for that. I'd have fully researched and costed the replacement of the chair. The fear of the unknown is worse for me than knowing and planning, even if the plan is hard / unpleasant. I don't fly, so maybe these suggestions are rubbish, but you get the idea and I'm sure you'll be able to come up with a good plan.

Best of luck
Jenni

Shannon said...

This is really terrible. I have not had too many bad experiences when flying, no lost, stolen or broken wheelchairs, but I know I need to watch for it.

clairesmum said...

This sounds like having your worst nightmare become terrifyingly real. The twist of human nature that leads someone to abscond with a wheelchair that is not their own is bizarre.
You have tried so hard to make sure that this doesn't happen.
It's hard to know what else the airline crew can do.
.
Maybe one of the suggestions from Jenni might be worth a try. Someone who is clever with fabric and crafts might devise some handle covers or seat cover that goes on and off with Velcro and is bright/garish. Easy to put on and take off, but making it clear this is not an airport WC but belongs to a PERSON!!

I wonder what other WC users do to prevent this problem....



echozoom87 said...

I've had this happen too. Now, every time I fly, I put a sign on the back of the chair that says "This is not an airport wheelchair" with my name and contact info.

Kelly said...

They were putting it into their trunk. They didn't think it was an airport wheelchair. You don't put those in your trunk. They were stealing.

Were charges pressed against them?

And why weren't airport staff watching more closely? Why would they even allow someone to begin to take off with your chair?

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I am having so much trouble understanding what on earth is wrong with these people to decide it is okay to just take away a wheelchair from the airport gate?

I've read somewhere that the most common reason people steal wheelchairs apparently is to go joy riding. Often the wheelchair is found later on, broken and abandoned. Which must be really devastating for the person it properly belongs to, even if at least they have the closure of learning some of what was done to the wheelchair. As despicable as theft for joyriding is, at least I can understand what they think they're getting out of the theft even if I still despise the joy rider for their selfish choices and cannot relate to them. What I don't understand is when people nab a random person's wheelchair from an airport. For what end? Still for joy riding? Something they think they can resell for profit? Because it seems like an easy and free way to get a wheelchair that someone they know might actually need, even if the particular wheelchair may be completely wrong for that person?