Saturday, August 25, 2012

Traveling while disabled

The BBC's Frank Gardner recounted some of his experiences flying while in a wheelchair (source). I do not use a wheelchair, but when I fly I usually ask for assistance (a person pushing me in a wheelchair through the airport) as I cannot stand very long and the lines are brutal. So far I am happy to report that I have not had the difficulties he has, but I have had a few instances where things have been difficult.

My favorite thing is to compare the service between airports. Some have a professional, dedicated service providing the assistance, and others use the normal staff of the airlines. The best I have experienced is in Detroit. They apparently hire a bunch of college freshman (from multiple universities) to push you through at a quick speed. They knew where they needed to go and were efficient (though still checking their phones :).

JFK on the other hand was horrible. I had a connecting flight with a 6 hour layover and they still barely got me on the plane. They forgot about me from the get go and after multiple requests and 2hrs they finally came to help me.  They transported me to a different terminal where I waited a few more hours. Then about 1.5hrs before my departure they switched the gate of my plane, back to the terminal I had originally come from. Again, after more requests for help, they got me to the plane just before boarding was about to end. Not happy that day.

Over all the experience is great and I can attest to Gardner's statement of "almost VIP status". It is nice to board early and skip past security and customs lines. But I have only traveled to developed countries. I get nervous about how it would be to other parts of the globe.

My other big worry is that now I have a big metal device in my back that will set off sensors. This could seriously delay security checks which are already difficult standing without shoes on, a cane, and my trousers almost falling down. Now I will have to have a metal detector survey my whole body while I stand looking like a weirdo.  I'll let you know how it goes next time I travel.