Sunday, May 06, 2018

The Chair at the Door

There are three things I do when travelling by air to make the experience less frightening. To be clear, I am not at all afraid of flying, I don't love it, but it doesn't scare me. (Don't you love the part of the safety video where they say, "By now you should be comfortably seated in your seat ..." is anyone actually comfortable, anyone at all?)

What scares me is giving up my wheelchair to others who are tasked with getting it safely back to me at the end of the flight. What also scares me, as it's happened twice, is other passengers stealing my chair from the door of the plane as it waits for me. So, I've come up with strategies to deal with my anxieties.

1) I speak to the purser on board and ask him to notice my chair and to keep an eye out for anyone other than myself taking it away. I explain why I'm asking. I wait for their shock to settle and then they typically agree right away.

2) I get on the plane and Joe tags the chair and sets it aside and speaks to those tasked with loading it.

3) Just a few minutes before the door closes, as things settle, I ask a flight attendant to check with the purser that the chair actually has been loaded.

Thusly assured, I can relax and enjoy my 'comfortable seat.'

When I hit step three on the flight out west, the flight attendant looked at me, annoyed, and said, "Don't worry, it's probably been loaded."

She said "probably" to a wheelchair user about his chair.

"Probably."

Shortly after take off I made a complaint to the purser about her attitude and her dismissal of my concern as valid. Thankfully he understood and thankfully he had kept an eye out and saw it taken away to be loaded. He assured me that there was no concern. He also said that it was unacceptable and unfeeling to not recognize the seriousness of my request. Then he apologized.

My chair indeed made it.

But I'm left wondering why so many non-disabled people have difficulty in understanding what a wheelchair actually is and why it's so important and why disabled people have so much emotion wrapped up in the chair and their need of them.

Isn't it obvious.

We can't walk.

We need a wheelchair.

What is hard about that?

5 comments:

Girl on wheels said...

Being generous I suspect it’s that most able people have no clue that wheelchairs aren’t interchangeable, that they are custom built for each individual. Nor do they realise that the things cost the same as a small car! So they think that we can just use another one until we get ours back. It’s ignorant but if your only experience of wheelchairs is the ones in hospitals/airports I can see why people would think that. If the general public knew how much the average wheelchair actually cost they’d be a lot more respectful of them. I know my friends and family were horrified when they found out how much I had to pay for my new chair, it’s disgusting that the companies who built them get to hold disabled people to ransom like that.

clairesmum said...

Didn't know that the cost of a small car was the retail price...I know there is no insurance coverage for anything more than one standard no fills adult WC for Medicare patients.....

Now I have a better way to understand it. A basic Honda mini size car is just like a basic WC. Not comfortable, reasonably durable, will get you from point A to point B which is ok if it is just that you can't walk long distances
For someone who lives in their chair, and has been doing so/will continue to do so for years....it is like designing/customizing your physical body 'transport system" 'seating system' ergonomic work station' 'comfy seat on the couch' and a whole bunch of other stuff....
need the Silicone Valley whiz kids to get going on these design challenges and get the costs down and the quality UP.


Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Ask people like that if they plan to carry you if the wheelchair doesn't show up. Then mention they don't look strong enough.

Girl on wheels said...

Clairesmum, you can buy a basic wheelchair for a few hundred pounds but it won’t be fitted to you and it’ll really be designed for being pushed by others rather than wheeled by the user. The chassis for my new chair cost £2500, and that was built to fit me exactly. It is the right width, depth and height for my body and the wheels are in the best position to not put a strain on my shoulders. I chose to upgrade to Power Assist Wheels which mean that after 5 years of being housebound without assistance I can now go out on my own. Those cost £4000. In the area of the UK I live in you can only get a wheelchair on the NHS if you are unable to walk at all, whilst I can walk inside the house if I use crutches. I certainly couldn’t have got such a good wheelchair on the NHS, it would have been heavier and less well designed and so I wouldn’t have been able to travel on my own. I was lucky my Dad was able to give me the money. But I find it horrifying that independence is considered a luxury for disabled people.

Carolynn Birilli said...

I remember the helplessness my mother had once as she noticed her sitting walker being taken off the plane at the wrong stop, and the frustration it was to get it to where we needed. This was at the start of a trip and set the whole mood, thankfully we were able to take a day to wait for the walker to reach the correct destination, but watching out the window and thinking, "Hey that looks just like your walker" as it is going away, was just devastating to her.