On Facebook, one of my friends posted a link to this article from Fox News:
Paralympian Drags Himself to Plane After Airline Makes Him Check Wheelchair
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A paralympic champion who dragged himself through an airport after a budget airline made him check in his wheelchair has received an apology.
Kurt Fearnley had just crawled along a 60-mile jungle track in Papua New Guinea.
But when he arrived at Brisbane airport a few days later, Jetstar— an offshoot of Qantas airlines — asked him to check in his wheelchair.
The Australian budget airline offered him its own wheelchair, specially designed for planes, but told Fearnley he would have to be pushed by airline staff.
Fearnley, who won marathon gold in the Beijing and Athens Paralympics, was insulted at being asked to give up his independence.
He said the equivalent for an able-bodied person "would be having your legs tied together, your pants pulled down and be carried or pushed through an airport."
In protest, he rejected the airline's wheelchair and dragged himself through the terminal, in and out of the toilet, and onto the plane.
Jetstar has now issued an apology, saying any embarrassment and hurt was not intentional.
It said its policy for passengers in wheelchairs was for them to transfer to the airline wheelchair, which is more maneuverable on the plane, at the boarding gate.
Jetstar have now assured Fearnley they are working on an alternative boarding procedure for disabled passengers.
He said: "As long as that's going ahead, I'm more than happy."
Since the incident, a man from Melbourne has said he spent six days in hospital after he fell out of a Jetstar wheelchair while being pushed by staff.
Trevor Carroll, of South Morang, told ABC news he handed over his four-wheeled walking frame on a Jetstar flight earlier this month, but it was broken in the baggage hold.
The airline offered to fix it, but he had no way to get home.
The first commenter following my friend's link said this:
Hmmm. Not sure if I agree with the passenger. Sounds to me like the airline had a common denominator policy. I would love to have airlines accommodate my specific needs for travelling with a child (carseat, stroller), but they don't. I don't think they're trying to take away my rights as a parent. I think this passenger was offered a reasonable alternative and hasn't proved that the airline was acting in bad faith. I also think the passenger was childish in his response.
Another person commented, and this person - I will call her Clueless - came back and wrote:
...I think it's tough travelling with a small child. Much harder than if I had only myself to look after. The needs of parents with children are not akin to the needs of passengers who are travelling unemcumbered. That's where the airlines have to draw the line. It's up to the airline and overseeing agencies to determine what is safe and reasonable for all passengers and their staff while, at the same time, run a profitable business. I respect that every individual, not just those with disabilities, decides what is reasonable. But not everyone's own desire can be accommodated. What happens then? The airline can't control the passenger's emotions or thoughts, but they can provide reasonble physical assistance which they did. That's why I think this passenger was childish in his response. He was offered more assistance than I get as a parent travelling with a small child.
I was not the only one with my jaw hanging open. Someone else posted:
Having a child is not a disability. However much you might like some assistance with your child while travelling, you are not disabled.
And a second commenter also wrote:
...Adaptive equipment is very specific to the human using the tool. Aside from being humiliating and dehumanizing to have your gear taken away from you and be helped onto the plane, it's also insulting to have a spectrum of disabilities gathered up and placed in the same wheelchair. I have both a husband with a disability and a small child. And let me tell you, the airport is a million times more conducive to traveling with my small child than with my husband.
But Clueless didn't get it. She didn't understand what these two commenters had pointed out so well: having a child, having a difficult time traveling, is not a disability.
Clueless weighed in to say this:
I think anyone who thinks my situation with a toddler is less difficult than a disabled traveler is doing precisely what you seem to think I'm doing. You're being insensitive to my situation. I may not be disabled, but it is hard to me to travel with my toddler. Whatever your conclusions are; they're your conclusions.
Good for you if you can manage better than I and lots of other parents can. Good for the disabled people who understand that they have choices about what they do, like travel on an airplane when it's not the easiest thing to do. Good for people with disabilities and parents with toddlers who strive to do more than is easy. I think it's important to remember that this passenger has CHOSEN to get on planes and do all the things he is doing though disabled. He was never denied the opportunity; it wasn't as he wanted/needed it to be. That's my issue with his reaction. If he never given as much help as he was offered, I would be very upset. (This is why I get really mad at anti-gay measures. Give everyone the same opportunity. Once upon a time, my own marriage would have been unwelcome/illegal.)
So, essentially, the argument is:
1) Disability access is only important if Clueless is able to get the help she needs when she travels with her toddler on planes. (It's all about meeeeee!!!)
2) Having a disability is exactly the same as traveling with a toddler on a plane. To me, this really speaks of a particular kind of entitlement - the entitlement of being able to move easily through the rest of one's life, and then, when something or someone (like a small child and the airport security or an uncomfortable, crowded plane) slows you down and makes you dependent on other people, you think, "wow, this must be what it's like to be disabled! Hey, the fact that I'm experiencing this means that I *am* disabled! Hey, I want some of those special disability rights!"
3) If you choose to get on a plane or to do, really, anything, then you have only yourself to blame for flying in the first place if you don't get the accommodations you need. Except, of course, if you are Clueless, who seems to feel that choosing to get on a plane is something this guy could have easily not done - which would have meant a professional athlete no longer competing, but, you know, it's *his* choice to get on that plane. Her own choice to travel with her toddler? Not mentioned in the same way at all. And look, I've encountered the "you don't have to travel with your kid on planes" crap from the anti-parent, anti-kid crowd. And it *is* crap. If you are going great distances, most often, you're gonna need to fly, unless you happen to a lot of money and vacation time. So while Clueless certainly chooses to fly, I don't begrudge her that decision. I would never say that if she chooses to put herself and her kid on a plane, she deserves to be inconvenienced. No. I would say that airlines need to accommodate their passengers, period, END OF SENTENCE, whether than means finding a way to get my own elderly parents to their connecting flight or making sure that every body on the plane has adequate space and a seatbelt that fits, airplanes need to accommodate their passengers.
But I also wonder what is so difficult about travelling with a toddler that she feels she needs special assistance beyond the early boarding and gate checking of all kinds of additional luggage that the airline already provides? Ensuring that all bathrooms have a changing table would certainly help, but beyond that, I'm really scratching my head. I'm thinking that if Clueless is having a hard time traveling with a toddler on a plane, she probably is having a hard time parenting a toddler in general, and if this is the case, it at least makes some kind of weird sense out of her comments.
4) Everything needs to be exactly equal, everyone should be offered the exact same opportunities for assistance, regardless of whether some people already have more assistance and some people already have less. This is like saying to a starving person and a well-fed person, "here, you can split this sandwich." That is offering each the exact same opportunities for assistance, and it does not meet the needs of the starving person, but hey, on the face of it, it looks fair. The fact that Clueless was motivated to anger re. anti-gay marriage legislation, not because it's morally wrong to prevent people from getting married based on sexual orientation, and not because it violates civil rights to do so, but because her own marriage would have been illegal at some time in the past (It's all about meeeee! again.) and so she feels this one, further suggests that she is less concerned with righting serious societal wrongs than she is with where and how she is affected by these societal wrongs.
What I wanted to say, and didn't, is that it is exactly this kind of self-centered entitled bullshit that makes the anti-parent folks hate us. This is why even our allies sometimes get pissed off at us. Thank you, Clueless, for giving someone, somewhere, another reason to not want to support parents who need support.
In the end, her arrogant ignorance was too much for me. I suggested that she visit Bint and CripChick and educate herself. I hope she does.