I’ve been grumpy about this before but this week my plight was brought to the notice of the world because it happened to someone in the public eye. Anne Wafula Strike, a Paralympian, had to wait nearly an hour to be helped from her flight.
She had booked her assistance weeks before, as I have on many occasions. This is not an unusual occurrence.
It happens at every airport and with every airline – people needing assistance can wait for ages to be helped from the aircraft. If you travel with your own wheelchair it can be a bigger problem because sometimes your chair is not brought to the aircraft and finishes up in the baggage hall.
The other problem is that if there is more than one person needing assistance, everyone has to wait to be herded together and go off in a convoy. If it’s when you are boarding a lot of the time you are moved from one holding area to another.
To be honest, the people that help you are all very good; it’s the actual system that’s the problem. Firstly, there are not enough helpers at most airports.
Secondly, they need some disabled peoples’ input. All we want is to be able to have almost the same choices as able bodied folks do at airports, train stations and even ports. I was going on a cruise; I got there in plenty of time and had booked assistance in advance.
As everybody boarded they were greeted by members of staff with champers and music and a party atmosphere. I, in my wheelchair, was taken to another entrance in the area where they loaded the supplies and was loaded from there.
That can’t be right, can it?
Here’s something else that affects me. Not everyone in a wheelchair has a disability that means they cannot walk or stand or get out of their wheelchair.
I suffer from Primary Orthostatic Tremor – Google it – I can walk but I cannot stand still for more than two or three seconds.
My tremor in my legs is three to four times faster than someone with Parkinson’s. Tremors are measured in Hz. Parkinson’s tremors are between 4-6Hz. My tremor is 15-17Hz.
The point I’m making is, when you see someone get out of their wheelchair and walk, don’t do, as some people do, which is to either mutter ‘it’s a miracle’ or tut or whatever.
Take a moment and accept they may be like me and have something rare that you have never heard of.
Don’t group all wheelchair users as being the same.
Sure, there are a few people at airports that try and get assistance to ‘buck’ the system of queuing etc. but I’m pleased to see that at some airports now you have to produce a Blue Badge or a doctor’s letter saying you need assistance.
Sorry, a serious one this week, but hey ho.