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The Difficulties of Air Travelers with Disabilities

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Flying it is an unpleasant experience for most of us, perhaps too long in one same seating spot can be fatiguing and dealing with layovers stressful. In addition to people who have a panic to fly, we have people with disabilities who have it complicated for other reasons.

Although to go in the train, by taxi, even by bus, is something more or less solved and relatively comfortable for those who move in a wheelchair, traveling by plane is still supposes an odyssey for them which In some cases it could even be considerate a torture. There is not any part of the flight for wheelchair users that can be described as enjoyable. Every single stage, from the checking in moment, to the many hours the flight can possibly take, to the landing, each one of this different phases can suppose a whole lot of inconveniences than anyone who’ve never used a wheelchair and travel, could ever imagine.

As we can see through the article Melisa Stuart “Air travelers with disabilities” basically anyone who has to travel with their wheelchair, they have to make sure usually in duplicate: on the web or travel agency and customer service phone – that they will have the assistance that they need to travel in both airports at the departure and arrival. Why? Because, without assistance, they would not be able to travel and the protocols are still pretty new and not as enforced yet that mistakes are very common, and not just that but they have to make sure to be at the airport at least 2 hours before for the same exact reason. Each airport is different, the protocols are not always the same so the earliest you get to the airport, the slimmest the chance to lose your flight. It seems like once you are ready to check in, wheelchairs users are set for the rest of the flight, but the nightmare just started. Your wheelchair, it is still considered loggage, so your batteries should be gel (or dry) and not acid (or wet). Because, if they are of the second type, they will not let you take it with you. Moreover, you will have to explain to them how to disconnect them, since if they are not disconnected, the whole aircraft can become a fireball and collapse. Depending on the chair, the disconnection can take several forms: from unplugging a simple connector to have to disassemble half chair with tool boxl. It is important to bear in mind that everything that one disassembles in this “beautiful” stage has to be reassembled in destination, thus doubling the time and effort.

Beyond how tediousness of all this is, that as it is exemplified in Autumn Gran’s article “Flying the Friendly Skies with a Disability” one of the keys to have a better understanding of what disabled people deals with while flying “is that my chair is not like your motorcycle. It’s like your feet. If it breaks or does not work, it becomes a very expensive and very heavy piece of furniture and one that I know it cannot be moved from the site without the help of firemen or a family member who can push around 300 pounds. Since this people is so attach to their wheelchair which at the same time is their only way to be independent, if the chair breaks, is misplaced somewhere else and lost or even if they can put it back in one piece as it used to, this could suppose a huge problem/inconvenience to its owner.

Once a disabled person checked in, has the right to be taken to the plan with its own chair, as its explained in Sage traveling “The European Disabled Travel Experts”. Once you are walked in the plain, as a disabled you are leaving behind “your feet” and placed on a seat which you basically won’t be able to move for a long time. Even though people is sitted, that does not make it their own chair. A big percentage of wheelchair users dispose of a molded specific chair made exclusively for them to be comfortable and be able to spend long periods of time sitted in the same place without any of your limbs to fall asleep. As it is explained in the Sage Traveling article “although flights can only last up to only two hours, this is enough to arrive at the destination with a lot of pain and exhausted (you know, the chair is not my chair)”. The problem that disabled people deals with in this scenarios it is definitely not a matter of how they are treated but more of its assistive technology and their accommodations. After all my research, I came to realization, that the main inconvenience/problem that need to be addressed is “why disabled people cannot sit on their personal wheelchair through the whole flight” which would suppose a huge improvement in the disabled flying experience; cutting out the time that takes to schedule all the services for you to get to the plain, avoid lost or breaking of the chair loading and unloading it from the plain, and allow disabled people to have commodity and not to feel suffering and pain through the whole flight. It is not only my feet and the only place where I can be comfortably seated, it is also quite expensive and difficult to repair. For all this, going in the cellar is not exactly a source of tranquility. The discomfort, the pain, I forget the next day, but on each flight I wonder what I’m going to do if I go down, say, in Mexico, and they give me back my broken chair. That has a much more difficult solution.

All this torture forcing me to pass to me, my family, the assistants and the baggage carriers – and the reverse of the procedure on arrival at destination! -, however, could be avoided in a very simple way : letting me fly in my chair. When one raises this, of course, there are always voices that allege possible technical obstacles, “security” issues or the like.

Keeping in mind that our civilization has trodden the moon and sequenced the human genome, considering that in the AVE I travel in my own chair with an almost offensive simplicity and having seen the very beautiful and very cheap anchors that there are in every adapted taxi, one concludes that, besides not respecting our health and our well-being, they do not respect our intelligence either.

The reason why this whole procedure is absurd, harmful to all the humans involved (except, perhaps, for the owner of the airline), complicated, slow, bulky and source of discomfort, stress and pain, is certainly not technical. I cannot say if it’s idiocy, incompetence, badness, greed or all together, but take out two seats and put two anchors my uncle does with a welder.

Let me fly in my chair, as has been clear, not only is better (and fair) for the retrones that want to fly like the others (nothing, a whim). Letting me fly in my chair would not only remedy historical and unjustifiable discrimination, but would also substantially improve the working conditions of attendees and baggage carriers (at a minimum) and make the whole process much less burdensome for everyone.

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