By in Personal

Going My Way

“Wheelchairs are not designed for use outside,” This very controversial statement was said just last week by a lobbyist who testified in opposition to making aircraft fully accessible for people in wheelchairs. As you might imagine, the expression of such a negatively stereotypical and controversial viewpoint outraged and insulted numerous disability rights and full inclusion advocates, including myself.

Airline travel is very hard and challenging for me and my parents due to airplane inaccessibility. Due to my being born with cerebral palsy, it is necessary for me to be taken out of my wheelchair and transferred into a rolling aisle chair in order to board and deboard the plane. In most cases, this process takes place before the passengers board and after they leave the plane. Several years ago, I was on a trip and the airline mistakenly allowed the other passengers to board before me. As a result, I had to be transferred into the rolling chair and boarded the plane as my fellow passengers became curious spectators. I felt as if I were being made a spectacle of. I was very embarrassed and humiliated. I filed a formal complaint with the airline customer service department. My complaint was investigated and since the airline was in violation of their own policy, I was given a credit to use on a future trip. After my negative experience, you can probably understand why flying is my least preferred method of transportation.

The lack of wheelchair accessible transportation for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs continues to be a tremendous barrier and obstacle to full inclusion and independence for people with disabilities.

Prior to the covid pandemic, I had been using a wheelchair accessible taxi cab. I had been riding in cabs since July 1993. I enjoyed riding in the cabs because doing so increased my independence and self sufficiency. However, it is extremely disappointing and discouraging that there are not enough wheelchair accessible taxi cabs to meet the needs and demands of an ever increasing ridership. I was only able to travel by cab on specific days, during specific hours and within a very specific service area. For example, my former job was in another county. In that situation, the county that I live in subsidized my commute to work, but if I needed a cab for my return trip, I had to pay for the cab out of my own pocket. This was quite a challenge as I am on a fixed income. As I mentioned briefly, the days and times that I can travel and the places I can travel to are limited as well. The cabs are a provider for paratransit and are subsidized by metro. I am impacted by this in that I can only travel by cab to destinations that are in the metro service area during metro operating hours.

You can join me in raising awareness about the lack of wheelchair accessible transportation and join me in seeking the resolution of this situation. Be an activist. Contact your Senators and Congressman and help them become informed regarding and aware of this significant persistent obstacle. Please remember that your vote is your voice. Vote in support of legislation that will increase funding and accessible transportation options for people with disabilities.

I hope that I have raised your awareness regarding these significant challenges that still exist in the 21st century and broadened your understanding and perspective in some ways. The next time that you travel, please take some time and think about ways that traveling could be made easier, more accessible and convenient for people with disabilities. When it is all said and done, changes that enhance and improve the lives of people with disabilities enhance and improve things for everyone.

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MegL wrote on March 5, 2023, 4:47 PM

I am astounded that anyone should think like that lobbyist, though he may just have been trying to deny the changes NEEDED in airlines' treatment of people with disabilities. I wonder whether he thinks like that in real life and if not, how he can do a job that forces him to deny what he knows is right.