[Ohio-talk] Deborah Kendrick Column Please read

Marianne Denning marianne at denningweb.com
Tue Oct 6 02:26:16 UTC 2015

This is excellent and so true.  Next step, what can we do about this?
I have had the same thing happen on many occasions.

On 10/5/15, Eric Duffy via Ohio-talk <ohio-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> This is a good read. The problem Deborah describes continues to be a problem
> for many of us. Spread the word. Let people know that Deborah’s experience
> is not an    isolated incident. .
> Eric
> Deborah Kendrick commentary: Airports can mean humiliation for some
> travelers. A recent midnight flight from San Francisco to Cincinnati held
> the elements all blind travelers dread most: The moment when one disability
> is mistaken for another, and deep-rooted misconceptions engender
> humiliation. When the last plane landed, I'd been traveling for 13 hours. It
> was 11:00 a.m., and I was exhausted. Here is the scenario. My ride home is
> in the cell phone lot. I ask the gate agent if someone can walk with me.
> This is a simple enough request and one I have made hundreds of times in
> dozens of airports. I am a blind person carrying a long white cane. My
> request is for someone to walk with me who knows the way. The gate agent is
> smart, courteous, eager to assist. She makes the call. ... And another. ...
> And another. When five minutes has gone by, I am impatient. At ten, I am
> agitated. At twenty, with a red-eye flight behind me and the knowledge that
> my ride home is just a few minutes' walk away, I am close to meltdown. I
> hear the agent say into the phone, "No, she doesn't need a wheelchair. Just
> needs someone to walk with her. At 25 minutes, the somewhat embarrassed gate
> agent comes over where I am leaning on the wall, trying not to cry, wishing
> I weren't so tired and could just start walking, exploring, figuring it out.
> "The problem," she informs me, "is that they won't come unless you will sit
> in the wheelchair. She is apologetic, sees the folly of this supposed
> "rule". But I am ready to disassemble with fatigue and humiliation and thus
> I acquiesce. The young woman who comes with the wheelchair tells me that if
> I don't sit in it, she will be fired. She will either leave me here or I
> will ride. I sit down. For the half-mile distance from gate to exit, I pray
> no one sees me who knows me. Don't get me wrong. There is no shame in using
> a wheelchair. For my friends who use them with purpose, the wheelchair is a
> tool of freedom and flight and euphoria. No, for me, the shame was rooted in
> the fear that others would think me a shirker, a faker, a jerk able to walk
> who commandeered some deserving passenger's wheelchair. The subtext here,
> the message conveyed, is this: Because I happen to be blind, I am not worthy
> of the same respect as any other paying passenger. If I need assistance, I
> will shut up, sit down, be addressed like a child (or piece of furniture),
> and be grateful. This, regrettably, is not an isolated incident. I have
> scores of stories from others - blind lawyers, athletes, and CEO's --
> recounting similar nightmares. Kaiti Shelton, a University of Dayton music
> therapy major, returned from a college abroad trip in June. The emotional
> high sparked by success in another country, the joy of having been treated
> as an equal by the residents there and her fellow college students,
> plummeted quickly in an American airport. She, too, was given the ultimatum
> "no wheelchair, no assistance. Eric Duffy of Columbus, president of the
> National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, says the wheelchair argument has
> happened more times than he can count. "I can be coming back from a
> powerfully positive experience, meeting with members of Congress on Capitol
> Hill or participating in negotiations with other leaders, and then the
> [emotional] balance shifts at the airport. The disrespect leaves me feeling
> insulted and angry. The only consistency in flying, if you happen to be
> blind, is inconsistency. Sometimes, the curb to curb process is rich with
> encounters of mutual respect, jumpstarting your business trip or vacation
> with a general love of humankind. Another time, the misconceptions held by
> airport workers result in degradation. You are grabbed, pulled, talked about
> in the third person, and given inappropriate "assistance". One TSA worker
> might allow you to move through the line without any particular notice,
> while another wants to hold your hands and talk to you in the sing-song
> tones reserved for preschoolers. One flight attendant might order you into
> the bulkhead row while another just as quickly orders you out of it. One day
> you might ask for someone to walk to the gate with you and the employee who
> arrives is so engaging that you have exchanged life stories by the time you
> arrive. And another day, the request results in a stripping of dignity.
> Disability awareness varies widely from one airline/airport to another. Not
> surprisingly, that difference seems to be in direct correlation to the
> source of training for employees. If you want to know how best to treat
> people with disabilities, ask them. And then listen to what they say.
> Deborah Kendrick is a Cincinnati writer and advocate for people with
> disabilities. .
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Marianne Denning, TVI, MA
Teacher of students who are blind or visually impaired
(513) 607-6053

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