Thursday, April 30, 2015

Waiting, Worrying and Wheelchairs

So we landed in Calgary.

The flight had been fine, the service great. No problems. Only a couple more worries left. I was confident that we had this trip down now. Then a whole new issue arose. A worry I hadn't contemplated showed up. One that needs, now, to be added to the list. My wheelchair was in the body of the plane behind a door that simply refused to open.


Eventually I had to get off the plane to go up to wait at the gate. They had a wheelchair to take me up but it had these things on the foot pedals that many people have but make their use impossible for me. I managed to make it to the get and get seated in the waiting area. "Here's a new one," I said to Joe who just looked so completely frustrated.

But here's what the staff on the plane and on the ground did that made it all better:\

1) they did not dismiss my concerns. They made it clear that they understood that my wheelchair was of vital importance, and they made it clear that my worry and anxiousness was an absolutely appropriate response to the situation. I wasn't treated as a spoiled child who didn't get what he wanted when he wanted.

2) they answered my questions and kept me up to date. They always answered my questions about what was going on. They gave me information, not reassurance that everything would be OK. They told me, for example, that the plane could not fly with items in the hold that did not belong to a passenger on the plane. It wasn't leaving until the wheelchair was off.

3) they offered a variety of solutions and let me pick what I wanted. When it was clear that I couldn't use the chair they brought to the plane, because of the foot rests. A number of options were presented to me. I choose the option and they went with it, fully understanding that this was my choice and they honoured the fact that I could make my own choice.

4) they showed genuine concern for me and the situation but they didn't over apologize. I knew that they were concerned that I get my chair, that I was dealing with real and appropriate anxiety, that I had to get to the washroom but couldn't. All of those things were going on but they didn't buzz about me with 'I'm sorry' on their lips. They gave me space to breathe and to calm down.

5) they let me know as soon as the chair was out, even though I had to wait for it to be brought up. They didn't let me sit in worry one second longer than I had to.

Bad situations are bad situations but people sometimes do all the right things I felt myself supported by people who understood what the situation meant to me and I knew they were working to make it better.

We got the chair.

We got to the washroom.

We got the luggage.

We got the car.

We got to the hotel.

OK, now we're in Calgary!


Antonia Lederhos Chandler said...

I liked hearing what the airport staff did that made you feel heard. Even so, what a hassle for you! Sheesh! I can see why you worry!

I used to work in Supported Living with adults who had multiple disabilities. I could tell you a few good stories.

One time, I arranged for a program participant who had quadriplegia and low vision and needed a personal assistant (PA) to travel more than 60 miles by paratransit, making 3 transfers, for a medical exam with a specialist. I had endeavored to make it abundantly clear to the scheduling paratransit agency that he had a power chair and would need to stay in it for the whole trip. They told me that they would plan the 3 legs of the journey, with 3 different paratransit agencies. I asked if I could call those agencies and make certain that each one actually sent a wheelchair van. They said that it was their job to make certain that this happened, and that they would take care of it.

This man and his PA arrived at one of their connections and were met by a station wagon. No good!

The company *made right* and sent a van, once they realized that a miscommunication had occurred.

We HAD left an extra hour to arrive on time for the doctor. We made it to the appointment, but LATE, so that only half of the exam could be done before his scheduled ride back home.

And the restroom wasn't as wheelchair accessible as we had assumed it would be (at a major university medical center!). This was a major inconvenience.

ABEhrhardt said...

Sounds like a whole bunch of people cared enough to do their jobs - and were decent humans as well.

Gives one hope for the rest of the planet.

I hope you won't have to have that worry very often, and as you said, they weren't allowed to fly off. I would think they couldn't fly off with a door that wouldn't open, either, but that's not your concern.

Enjoy Calgary.


clairesmum said...

Glad that a worrisome event was handled so well. Amazing how great it is when everyone is being thoughtful of others instead of thinking only about themselves. Kudos to the airline in general, and those folks at Calgary in particular. Hope that the rest of your journey goes well.

CapriUni said...

Here's a fourth "W" word for you:


Glad everything worked out.

Andrea S. said...

I know how much it can mean just to have people validate that you really do have a right, and good reason, to be highly anxious about having your needs met. I have had people react with puzzlement when I try to explain why I'm upset that a hotel is refusing to provide the accommodations I need as a deaf guest or that a hospital is refusing to provide a sign language interpreter. And it's not a good feeling. It's stressful enough just to have things really crucial to your needs taken away or denied to you without also having to deal with people who, as you put it, think you're a spoiled child not getting your way. Or, someone with puzzling and confusing desires that they can't understand so they aren't going to try.

Cindy said...

I am proud to be a Calgarian - even if I am a transplant but after 37 years here, I am a Calgarian. You don't say which airline but if I had to guess, I would guess WestJet. And if I am wrong, then kudos to Air Canada.

Glad you got your chair and are ready to rock and roll around this great city. Hope you have a good visit and find the places you need and want to be accessible and welcoming.

B. said...

That's encouraging - improving attitudes and responses. Good to hear.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to worry, because the thing that is going to go wrong will be something that hadn't occurred to you to worry about, and all that other worrying was wasted.
I'm glad this worked out.

Dave Hingsburger said...


It was Air Canada. I forgot to identify them because I'd put a picture of their plane on the post before. Anyways, the AC staff were amazing.