The Disabled Have Fewer Rights

May 1, 2009

in Illness/Medical Stories

How about flight from hell, for my disabled husband? The boneheads at security always frisk him down. Even ask him if he can walk (he’s in a wheelchair), what would YOU assume? He can walk only with assistance because he hasn’t ANY balance. So it is a comedy of errors trying to get him thru the sensors WITHOUT touching any side, buzzers inevitably go off so the process is repeated, again.

If you ordered wheelchair service it is truly hit or miss at the stopover locations. My favorite is when they have the wheelchair waiting for him (we are always the last off the plane because we are slow, we want to show courtesy), transports him to said gate (we tip), and then take the chair away! I have told them, wait! He cannot board without assistance, he needs that chair. “Oh no, we have to remove the chair for other passengers.” So I have to ask the flight attendant at the gate to provide one so he can get on the plane. Then the airline announces a gate change!

It took my daughter and I 25 minutes to get a chair so he could be moved to the new boarding area. Of course THAT chair was removed promptly! More fun than we were allowed to have. Disabled people have fewer rights than the able bodied do. If we had the time we would drive!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous May 3, 2009 at 6:12 am

I don't really expect a reply, but do you mind naming names here? Not all airlines or airports have the same policies in that regard, and I agree with you that it's not really fair, especially at a major hub where gate changes happen often, to leave a totally disabled person without a means of mobility. It's also a safety hazard; if there's a fire or any other reason for an emergency evacuation of the terminal, how would someone unable to walk get out?

I would suggest, however, that if you do that much traveling by air, you purchase a fold-up wheelchair. They can't take that away from you and give it to someone else

A tip for security next time: have your husband tell the TSA he's unable to pass through the metal detector and they should hand-wand him. They should be able to find a way to make this work without his having to stumble through the detector five times.


MJ May 3, 2009 at 9:51 am

I was going to ask a similar question. I don't use a wheelchair and have never traveled with anyone who does, so I don't know the procedure. If he has balance issues, does he use a wheelchair on a regular basis? Do you fly on a regular basis? It seems like it might be prudent to invest in a folding wheelchair.

This, of course, doesn't excuse the fact that the airlines should be doing a far better job accommodating disabled passengers.


Anon May 3, 2009 at 10:30 am

I'm disabled and also use a wheelchair. I get these questions asked all the time when I fly. (Yes, some people in wheelchairs can walk. Even if they have a "sports chair" like mine.) I can walk with assitance too but its embarrassing and cumbersome trying to help me stand out of my own sports chair, so I request a semi-private (or private) "pat down" while I am in my chair. It is always done by someone of your sex and they are generally very polite about telling you where and how they will be touching you. If you have anything of metal in you (ie: pins, plates, ect from surgeries) you need to tell them right away. Also if you own your wheelchair. (like I do) Be sure to tell them what metal alloy composites the chair is made from (ie: Titanium/Aluminum ect) Sometimes on the rare occasion they may need to inspect the wheelchair further, so by all means request another chair for you to transfer into. Also last but not least, TSA usually now rushes people who are disabled up to the front of the line. So they can spend more time with you.

As for the airlines, I have never had to "request" one of their wheelchairs because my chair is usually waiting for me when I get off. (Of course I do have to request the on-board seating wheelchair-or the airplane torture chair, very uncomfortable but it only lasts a few minutes.) However, I have a funny story tell you. In 2003 I flew to Toronto to visit my family and when I was being assisted off the plane, my wheelchair wasn't there! The airline swore that they brought it up and when they searched the airport they found an elderly woman being pushed by her daughter in my wheelchair! The daughter had seen my chair earlier and thinking it belonged to the airlines and not to me told the airlines that it was her "mother's chair that they had requested" and that they were greatful that it was brought to the plane so quickly. (They unloaded before me.) The airline (Air Canada btw) had to explain that they don't use "sports chairs" like these for regular passengers and that my wheelchair belonged to me. I was very greatful to get it back and now when I fly, I always make sure that the airline and those that are also using the airport wheelchairs know that my wheelchair is for me and me only. One mix-up can lead to a lifetime of headaches.

One last piece of advice, when you do fly notify the airlines that you NEED a wheelchair for your husband, or if they can't guarantee one. Medical supply stores can rent you one of theirs and you will have full control on having a wheelchair for your trip. (Also it comes in handy if you are travelling as a tourist) You will be more at ease when you travel knowing that your wheelchair will be waiting for you at the door of the airplane. Good luck and Happy Travels!


Andrew Rossiter May 9, 2009 at 2:05 am

My 10 year old son has muscular dystrophy and cannot walk at all. Trying to travel anywhere by air in australia is an excersise in frustration. Basiclly all the major airlines do not care or want to know and quantas made it as difficult as possible without actually refusining carrage to travel from perth to brisbane last year. The disabled in australia have very few rights when travelling.


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