[Ohio-talk] An open letter to blind airport travelers

Marianne Denning marianne at denningweb.com
Tue Dec 16 16:38:36 UTC 2014

Written by a man, who by his own admission, hasn't used an airport
since the building of the coliseum in Rome. If I ever work as a ticket
agent and someone asks for a wheelchair I will insist they need, and
must use, a white cane.  The public is probably lucky I will never
work in such a position.

On 12/16/14, David Cohen via Ohio-talk <ohio-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Dear Blind Travelers of  Airports Who Speak The Same Complaints About
> Airport Practices For The Last 25 Years,
> One way to avoid being presented with a wheelchair experience is to
> arrive with a guide dog or a fully-dressed mannequin under your arm.
> Maybe stop making such a big deal about wheelchairs and remember that
> many members of the federation live their lives in wheelchairs.  Maybe
> such members dislike the negative sentiment expressed about
> wheelchairs?  Maybe they think you are being unfair and discriminatory
> about people who use wheelchairs?
> Here’s some suggestions I have based on my own experience traveling in
> airports both with a guide dog and with a cane.
> 1. Travel as light as possible.  Take a suitcase that you can
> roll/pull behind you.  Use a book bag or backpack.
> 2. No matter where you get dropped off listen to the other travelers
> around you.  Listen for their projected directional sound and listen
> for doors opening or revolving.  Listen for the ritualistic
> conversation of airport employees.  “Hi folks… Where you going today?”
>  Approach this person and take control of your situation. In short,
> pay attention.
> 3. When you get inside stop and lift the cover of your Braille watch
> or pull out your compact and make like you’re involved and listen
> again to what is around you.  Throw your smartphone in the nearest
> waste can.  Listen to the movement of the majority of people.  People
> are followers of routine and creatures of habit just ask your dog and
> cat.  Listen to those coming in the same doors behind you and turn and
> ask one such person who is probably also just arriving to give you the
> general direction of the check-in area.  Now listen in that direction.
> 3.5 Don’t let someone give you specific directions.  Use your arm or
> hand to signal the general direction if someone speaks the language of
> “there,” or “to your left… I mean my left… Oh I’m terrible with
> direction.”  Follow the other people you hear on this line of moving
> sound. You don’t need specifics here and nobody can give you audible
> or tactilly-specific directions except another adept blind person
> probably because well… seeing people don’t see what is around them
> most of the time like airport diagrams or maps hanging on walls.
> 4. Walk in this direction and listen to what is moving around you.
> Notice landmarks like the sound of toilets flushing, the change from
> tile to carpeting or the sound of elevator bells etc.  Eavesdrop on
> any and all conversations around you.  Sighted folk get unnerved and
> become strangely inept if someone just mentions airport travel and
> they have signs to read but do not read them because they are looking
> for eye-candy.  Why would any reasonable person stop to take five
> minutes to study an airport diagram?
> 5. When you arrive to the check-in area for your particular airline
> good luck with the guide ropes.  I most often lift and go under.  The
> engineering patent for such is held by BSVI and SSB agencies
> nationwide in order to further annoy and help blind people I’m sure so
> there’s no bother in contesting this.
> 5.5 Try to enjoy what you are doing.  Look at this as a sort of NFB
> training center drop-off.  Be ready to smile back at someone who asks
> you anything.  Use a thumb to ask left or right to move through the
> bloody guide ropes.  You will project that which you feel: fear,
> reservation, confrontation, self-pity and self-righteousness and this
> will be returned to you.
> 6. When positioned in line speak to the person in front of you, find
> their heel with the end of your cane and listen to the movement of the
> line and the number of attendants working behind the check-in counter.
> 6.5 When facing the check-in representative ask for the gate number
> and concourse number or letter that is designated.  Listen to the man
> or woman beside you at the counter asking for the same information and
> directions to security and pay attention to the answer and compare the
> directional movement of everybody you’ve listened to while you waited
> in line and gain confirmation.  Offer my contact information to all
> brunette airline stewardesses when on board your plane.
> 7. Now listen to the direction in which the people who have completed
> their check-in move away from the counter.  They are probably going to
> the main hallway that leads everyone to security.  Who likes to tour
> airports? People go to airports to leave airports.
> 8.  Line up in the security check-in and surrender for a handful of
> minutes all the pride you have and again listen to the conversations
> around you.  Someone in this line might ask for the same information
> you need to direct yourself beyond the security checkpoint.
> 9.  Maybe ask the people in line around you if one is also traveling
> to Transylvania as well? Organize and remove all of your metal ahead
> of time. Put it inside your shoulder bag before you arrive.  Swallow
> your watch or your money clip.
> 10. If given a choice of multiple concourses ask how many different
> concourses exist.  Ask if the concourses is arranged in any order.
> IE. Even and odd numbers or A through E to the left and F through J to
> the right.  Take time to explain the first 10 letters and numbers of
> the Braille code and how uniquely simple and logical it is.
> 11. After locating your concourse listen to all the people moving like
> the walks-fast people we are and politely ask what gate such a person
> is heading to.  Ask if odd numbered gates is on the left or the right.
> Ask who won the Cavs game last night. Ask why technology has advanced
> in every aspect except efficiency?
> 12. All concourses are concourses.  These function like hamster cage
> tubing only they are square instead of cylindrical.  Stay within the
> directional flow of the people around you who are departing.  We move
> on the right side of hallways just as we drive on the right side of
> the streets.  In England etc. guide dogs are held in the right hand
> because traffic comes directionally from the left.
> 13. Listen to the sound of the televisions that have to be by law
> turned on and blaring CNN or FOX news to you so you don’t forget to
> complain about the media.  Listen to the public address voice speak
> information that such and such a flight is ready for boarding at Gate
> 1, 4, 44 or 48 and know you are in the area of this gate.
> 14. Pay attention to the youths who are standing prostrated with
> clasped hands in prayer posture over their smartphones in the middle
> of the concourse oblivious to others.  When you hear one of them
> engaged this way lower your shoulder and take him or her out.  Pay
> attention to the same nitwit who is approaching you while looking at a
> smartphone and not looking straight ahead when walking and impale this
> person on the end of your cane.  Have an extra cane tip to replace the
> old one you’ve now sacrificed for the betterment of humanity.
> 15. The truth about airports, shopping malls and baseball stadiums is
> that each and every one of them is more or less the same design.  The
> architecture inside hasn’t changed since the Roman Coliseum was
> erected.  The difference is only eye-candy and not distracting to
> blind people who are taking in only that which they know is necessary
> to get from A to B.  The concourse hallways do not jockey for position
> like racing horses.  Security checkpoint is always positioned between
> ticket counter checkin points and the concourse and the ticket
> counters is conveniently located near the entrances especially when
> you are in Dayton International airport along with the 12 other people
> using the airport that day.
> 16.  If you cannot travel independently in an airport pay your reader
> to take you as far as he or she can inside the airport and for God’s
> sake stop trying to change the mass of humanity to suit your
> individual life experiences.
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Marianne Denning, TVI, MA
Teacher of students who are blind or visually impaired
(513) 607-6053

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