Monday, March 31, 2008


It's 5:00 AM, I've slept in. I don't know how but I set the alarm incorrectly, we should have been up an hour earlier. So now all the world is a rush. The only reason I have time to write anything is that Joe is in the shower which gives me a few minutes before I have to do the same. We are flying today to Regina where I'll be doing two keynotes, one on Tuesday, one on Wednesday. Our flight isn't until 9:15 but travelling 'disabled' means taking a whole lot more time.

Joe has to drop me off at the terminal, get me in such that I can sit and guard the luggage while he parks the car. Then, after he gets back, we have to go to 'special services' where we will be 'assisted' with our flight. It's amazing how 'special service' personnel often seem to resent disabled people! Especially those, like me, who think that 'service' means ... well ... 'service'. I don't expect to sit parked off to the side until someone feels like taking me to the gate. I actually expect to go to the gate after check in. It's always a fight, but I always get taken.

So on the way down to the terminal I've got to get into a 'self-advocate' mode which is a combination of firm determination and temper control. Especially when they want me to check my wheelchair in at the gate and get me into one of the airport chairs. I don't do that. I take my chair to the plane, have it put underneath with the strollers (theres dignity for you) and have it brought back up again. The airport chairs are too narrow for my, um, build and it's like asking a two footer to check their legs in at the gate.

I'm often thankful that I worked for years with people with disabilities and learned that second best is not an option. Now in my work with people with intellectual disabilities I ensure that they have the opportunity to practice speaking up, practice assertion, practice personal advocacy - it's a skill they need for the world. They'd better have practice time at home.

So I ... Ooops ... Joe is out of the shower and calling for me to get going. His voice says I have no option. I'd try self advocacy now, but it's probably not the


Anonymous said...

Is it a bad thing if I admit that I laughed at your last line? ;-)

I don't have an on-going disability (well, not mobility related ... well, not one that normally involves the need for assistance at the airport), but I did once require assistance when I was changing flights on my way home from out of country. The guy who pushed my wheelchair and helped get my luggage through customs was courteous. And when it became apparent that we were going to get to the gate late (I don't know why they don't just schedule more time for people flying into the US from out of country: if they're going to make you pick up your luggage and put it through customs then they should give you a 90 minute or two hour lay over, not the 1 hour or less that we got ... but anyway ...) he called ahead to have them hold the plane for me.

Hearing stories like yours and from other people who have needed to rely on the expertise and decent treatment of airport personnel makes me realize how lucky I was on that occasion.

Read what disability advocates from around the world say about the first anniversary of the international disability rights treaty at in the RatifyNow CRPD Blog Swarm 2008.

lina said...

good luck with all your travels Dave.
thanks for my morning smile and I hope today's person at the counter was actually decent!

Anonymous said...

"um sir can you check your legs here and procede to your gate"
I have a quote or sorts for you
"I am not confined to my wheelchair I am freed by it, to go when I want. Are you confined to your legs? Your eyes?"