Tag Archives: disability and travel

Vacation: Part I

Hi friends –

It is good to be back at the keyboard. I skipped a nap on my sofa for this, the first chapter of my trip to the left coast. Yes, I am a dog and I do, in fact, know my left from my right. It’s one of the many skills I learned as a pup. This may not seem impressive but it allows Dad and I a way to weave through a crowd as if we were connected. (We are connected by a lead and a service vest but you know what I mean.) I’ll get back to the directional commands in a minute, let’s get this story back on track. I feel like I got distracted by a cat or somethin’.

The whole reason for our travel plans was so that I could meet dad’s sister, my Aunt Carrie, and her human puppies. Okay, well that’s not entirely true. We went because my human cousin was celebrating her Bat Mitzvah. There was no way we could miss that! Everyone meeting me is a happy by-product.

This trip required some planning because it was my first time on those big influenza incubators everyone calls airplanes. Mom and Dad did their research on airline policy to confirm which particular flu carrier (Oh,I mean airline) we’d choose. It was decided that we’d fly Southwest. There were several factors, one is that Mom worked for them a few years ago so she knew they’d love me. Another, was that general seating could actually work since we knew the bulkhead would be the best spot for Dad and me. This along with a pre-boarding pass would be the ticket. (ha-ha see what I did there? Airline? Ticket?) With that settled the day arrived for us to head west. We drove to the Tulsa airport, along with boarding passes I brought my ID card to prove that I had training from an accredited organization as well my current shot records and city registration verification. I know that many people are not as current on the laws as we are so I brought what I thought people may hassle Dad for, just in case it became a topic. (Good news, no one asked. They must know their stuff!)

We parked my truck at the airport and met a van to take us to the gates. The driver watched me hop out of the back along with our luggage; with a puzzled look he asked Dad, “Is he coming with us?” Dad answered with a definitive, “yes” and we climbed aboard. He shrugged and smiled. As we unloaded at the gates, he watched me closely and told Dad what a great dog I was. Dad thanked him with a nod and a few dollars for helping with the bags.

We let Mom and the human puppies take the bags we were checking, and we headed for the security lines, not knowing what could be in store for us there. Dad was telling me that every TSA check is a little different. We both emptied our pockets into trays and walked together through the big scanners. Dad was calm, and reassured me that we wouldn’t be hurt, they just need to ensure we are not carrying things we shouldn’t. I walked on, but when the big box beeped I got nervous. I thought for sure they wanted my cookies. I can keep those right? Dad explained that he was not willing to take off any more of my working gear, so they agreed to “wand us”. Once we made it through three agents all complimented us, one even shared a story of Danes he knew, while a second told us that the first agent came to our check point especially to help us when he saw us come in the door. It was a nice easy experience.

After we met up with the family again we stopped for coffee and breakfast, then headed to see where our gate was. Since we were close with a long time before we needed to load-up Mom got our pre-boarding pass and Dad and I went outside for a “business” break. Of course that means we needed to go back though security but that was easy enough.

We boarded the plane like we’d done it a million times and Mom helped with my Mutt Muffs. The flight attendants were shocked to learn that this was my first flight and couldn’t wait to take my picture. I just can’t get away from the puparazzi, but I do like to please my public!

I was perfect, OF COURSE, during the fight. I slept through most of it. People thought that was pretty amazing. If they think that is good they should see how well I sleep on my own couch!!! There was plenty of room for my by Dad’s, Lily’s and Alyssa’s feet and they brought a fluffy for me to lay on. Mom had to sit across the aisle, but she was able to get us stuff whenever we needed it.

We  had to change plane in Las Vegas. I have heard a lot about that place and even though there were slot machines near our gate I didn’t think it looked all that impressive. Dad said there was a lot more outside the airport. Whatever. We got on our second plane there and I did great, again. But Mom and Dad messed up. They forgot my Mutt Muffs this time! The noises made me a little nervous this time. Once we were in the air I was fine, though, and had another nice nap.

San Diego, here I go!!

PSA Monday: Airline Accomodations

Hello, again. This is Casper’s momma, Lauri, here to deliver this weeks PSA.

I was appalled this week to read a story about man who was completely humiliated as he was made to arm crawl off a plane and across a tarmac from a Delta flight because they did not have the equipment available to help him deplane. D. Baraka Kanaan, of Maui, is wheelchair bound after a car accident left him unable to use his legs. He flew into Nantucket, MA from Hawaii where he was informed that the equipment he needed to comfortably leave the plane was not available. The flight attendant told him she didn’t know what he should do. He then had to crawl, using only his arms, down the narrow aisle, off the plane, and across the tarmac to his wheelchair while wearing his best suit.  When he returned to the airport for his flight home the equipment was still not available but this time Delta was nice enough to offer cardboard for him to crawl on so he did not dirty his clothes.  Oh, and by the way, he was due to have spinal surgery in a few weeks which had to be delayed because the crawl caused injuries to his spine.

There are so many things wrong with this that it makes my head spin. First, let me say that I used to work for an airline and there is quite a bit of training about disabilities for all employees. Let’s look at all the ways this airline failed.

1. All airlines should have at least 3 things at their disposal for passengers who have mobility issues: a wheelchair, an aisle chair, and a lift. For those of you not familiar with this things I will explain. The wheelchair part you all know. Airports are full of them. Sometimes other passengers snag your company’s wheelchairs and you might have to hunt one down, but they are always around. An aisle chair is a wheelchair of sorts. This is designed especially to fit down the aisle of an airplane because a typical wheelchair will not fit. Passengers sometimes snag these too, but usually they are stored behind the jet bridge door where passengers can’t randomly take them. If they go missing (and I have been in a situation where this happened) then there is always a neighboring airline happy to help you out. Note that in this article there is mention that one belonging to another airline was clearly visible. The other item used is a lift. This is usually a plastic board or a canvas/netted sling to help employees move the passenger from a chair to their seat. In a pinch you my not need this, but only trained employees will help to lift the passenger so that it is done in a way that causes the least discomfort or embarrassment.  So how is it this airline had NONE of these things? And even in this amazing catastrophe why did they not at LEAST bring his chair to the steps to prevent him from having to crawl across the tarmac????

2.  There is always someone on every shift who is trained to take any complaints from a passenger with a disability who was not provided for adequately and that person should know exactly how to resolve these issues. In this case the man was apparently not provided a representative at the airport and when he called in he was offered a voucher and more frequent flyer miles. Not only that, but there was no mention of compensation for his ruined clothes. Perhaps this isn’t that big of an issue, but it is the least (and I mean very least) they could do.

3. The reservation was clearly marked with notes that he would need these items upon landing. Now, I did not work for Delta so I do not know how their system works, but the airline I worked for had very clear notations of this in the reservations and when a plane was near to the airport this was checked and the equipment was rounded up if not already at the gate. Was there no employees in the airport at all? None? How could they miss that?

4. What is wrong with the flight attendant who did not try to help him in any way? Regardless of you training how can you watch this happen? If I had been a passenger on the plane I would have rushed ahead for a chair or asked another airline to come help. This is actually the worst part for me, the lack of compassion in this situation.

Sometimes discrimination is hard to spot from the outsider’s standpoint. An ‘innocent’ question about a disability or a lack of common sense may not seem important to the observer. These are the kinds of things I want to start calling attention to. It never occurred to me that such a blatant show of disregard would still exist, though. I never imagined that in this day and age there would be so much ignorance and so little compassion still. I hope that this terrible situation shines a spotlight on disability awareness. Please share this with others so that more will learn from these mistakes.

P.S.  This is not the first time Delta has made a passenger with a disability crawl off of a plane.

 

 

written and edited by LJS