photo of person using wheelchair
Current Events,  Work

Ableism R Us

I travelled last week with a person who is using a wheelchair. This wasn’t our first time doing this. I’m not sure if the treatment of her is worse this year or if I’m just noticing it more.

She is able to stand and walk but for long walks – like airports and conference halls – a wheelchair is best. I’ll be listing our issues through the week.

  • Going through security at the airport – Agents asked me (not her) if she was able to stand and walk through the screening. This happened every time someone had a question.
  • When ordering food in the airport I had to buy hers because they couldn’t understand that we wanted to order separately. I guess they decided that I was her caretaker and was handling the money.
  • The jetways have ramps but we needed to go backwards to get the wheelchair up them. I almost dumped her out when I hit the first one going forward.
  • We have to go through a temperature measuring line before going into the conference. The stanchions aren’t far enough apart to make the turns with the wheelchair.
  • There was a bathroom door in a restaurant that she couldn’t open without getting out of the chair. In that bathroom the disabled stall had a large decorative basket taking up the space so the wheelchair didn’t fit inside.
  • We had to fold up the chair to get between tables at one restaurant.
  • A security guard asked me if she had her pass when she couldn’t see it instead of addressing her.
  • I bought every meal. We couldn’t decide if people thought I was her caretaker, Mom, or both.
  • A hostess addressed her (WIN) to ask her if she needed a children’s menu. She’s 26 years old.
  • In bathrooms the paper towels are far away from the sink so she needs to get a towel first if she doesn’t want to roll the chair with wet hands.
  • Sometimes she can’t reach the soap dispensers.
  • We need to order SUVs from ride sharing apps to accommodate the chair. It is twice as expensive. One time we ordered just a regular ride because we weren’t taking the chair and got an SUV anyway.
  • The carpet in the conference center is hard to roll on
  • On our last flight the gate agent insisted that she was going to change our seats from 2 window seats – that we paid extra for – in order for us to sit side by side. We said no because neither one of us wanted a middle seat for a long flight. She insisted. I said, “Don’t change those seats.” She looked at me, cut her eyes over to the wheelchair, looked back at me, and whispered, “You need to sit together.” I informed her that this was our fourth flight that week and we hadn’t sat together even once. Somehow everyone was still alive.

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