suryaofvulcan (suryaofvulcan) wrote,

disability fail of the week

This article popped up on my Yahoo homepage today, and some of the comments made me see red.

Paralympian's wheelchair taken away - Australian budget airline Jetstar apologised after making a Paralympic champion check in his wheelchair before catching a flight, prompting him to drag himself through the airport.

Basically the airline wanted him to check his chair at check-in, and use achair provided by them in the airport and to get aboard the plane. Not a problem, you might say. They've offered him an alternative. The problem is, he couldn't propel or manoeuvre the alternative chair himself - he would have been entirely dependent on someone else to do it for him. So, since he's an athlete with exceptional upper-body strength, he decided to make a protest by refusing the substitute chair and dragged himself through the airport and onto the aircraft using his arms.

From the comments:
"The guys being stubborn, the airline offered him a­ chair that is made for use on the plane." [Yes, but they wanted him to use it in the AIRPORT too.]
"He's flying back having­ "just completed a gruelling 60 mile crawl using­ his hands along a Papua New Guinea jungle track"­ and having to use an airline wheelchair was going to­ "rob him of his mobility" so he decided not­ to use it. I guess the airport must have been pretty­ big with walkways worse than jungle tracks !" [An airline wheelchair that he COULDN'T PUSH HIMSELF, bozo.]
"Like being old, being disabled­ is a good excuse for being unsociable, and there's­ nothin' like giving others a bad time to make­ yourself feel a bit self satisfied when you are a­ cantankerous git, is there?" [Yes, disabled people are just SOOO unreasonable, wanting access to EVERYTHING. Why can't they just sit down, shut up and live tragic, saintly lives like they used to?]
"The facts are he has grabbed an opportunity to­ overdramatise an otherwise tiny incident by pushing­ himself round on his hands. He needs to grow up and­ accept that as a "Normal" person he has to­ accept that there are some instances when the safety of­ hundreds outweighs the requirements of one." [Because there's no way his wheelchair could be checked at the last moment before he goes on board, like they do with hundreds of pushchairs every day, right?]
"Just because they have suffered a setback­ in life the rest of us should bend over backwards for­ them." [Allowing him to use his wheelchair is the same as allowing you to use your legs. Would you like to like to have your feet tied together next time you check in? No?]
"[...] You get what you pay­ for and if he wants to travel cheaply then he can't­ complain about the facilities when he chooses to do so.­ The airline offered the best they were able to in the­ circumstances without causing any insult to his dignity­ or seemingly fragile ego!" [No, the best they could do was allow him the dignity of using his own damn wheelchair!]

... and that's only from page 1 of 4.

So let's unpack this a bit.

I've only ever used a wheelchair for a few weeks at a time, but I have made exensive use of walking aids like crutches and sticks. You have no idea of the panic that used to come over me whenever someone took my crutches away, saying, 'I'll just put these over here, out of the way. Just ask me when you need them.' Because no matter how helpful and well-intentioned the person, taking my walking aids away took away my independence; my autonomy as a person. Without them I might as well have been tied to whatever chair I was sitting in. Taking my walking aids away made me dependent on THAT PERSON, and if they left the room or were busy or distracted (because this was most often said by a teacher in a classroom setting) I was left immobile and helpless. And yes, from time to time we all find ourselves in situations where we're dependent on others, but for disabled people dependence is so often all that's expected of them, so often the norm, that any time someone takes away some of their hard-fought-for INdependence, it's that much more hurtful. It's bad enough when you're prepared for it - when you've made the conscious if reluctant decision to trade a little of your independence for someone else's convenience. When it's unexpected, sprung on you because 'those are the rules' that can't possibly be modified or tailored to your indivdual needs, it's unbearable.

So I applaud Kurt Fearnley, for using his athletic prowess to do what I'm sure many people would love to when they're offered inadequate 'accommodations' - give them a giant 'fuck you'.

Tags: disability, rant

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