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.
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?