Assistance Or Not


Assistance Or Not

By guest author

Nancy Karsten

     Susan checked her Braille watch as the plane taxied to its final parking place. It always seemed to take forever to reach the gate at Denver’s new airport,
and she only had 35 minutes before her next plane was due to leave. She knew she would have to wait until almost everyone else had gotten off the plane before someone came to assist her. “I hope I make it to my next plane,”
she thought. “I’ve never had to go to a different concourse before.”

     When the doors finally opened, she listened to people opening overhead bins, people moving past her, the excited voices of two children who had been sitting
a few rows in front of her. A few minutes later, she heard a garbled voice coming from one of the two-way radios that airport staff members sometimes
carried. Almost immediately someone touched her hand, and a lady asked, “May I assist you off the plane?”

      “That was quick,” she thought as she stood up and took the lady’s arm. But as they reach the door, Susan’s guide said, “Good flight,” and a male voice responded, “Thanks. It was smoother than I thought it would be.”

     “Uh, oh,” Susan thought. “This lady isn’t an airport helper.” “Are you a passenger?” she asked as they walked up the gangway.

     “Yes,” the lady answered. She and her husband had come to Denver to take care of their grandchildren while the parents took a cruise.

     Susan then explained that an official staff member ought to be nearby to guide her to her next plane. Just then, one of the flight attendants from the
plane they had just left came up to them and said that she had put in a second call for assistance, and someone should be coming any minute. “My husband
and I will stay with Susan until someone comes,” her companion assured the flight attendant.

     The flight attendant rushed off to catch her next flight, and Susan started feeling more and more uneasy. Her helper’s husband tried to flag down an electric
cart, but the driver shook his head and kept going. Finally, Susan and the lady started walking, while the lady’s husband went to try to get someone to
hold Susan’s flight.

     When they came to the end of the concourse, the lady turned around to look for her husband. “Here he comes,” she said, “and he found an airport person
with a wheelchair.”

     Immediately, alarm bells went off in Susan’s head. “Wheelchair! No! Stereotype! Degrading!” But, another part of her mind said, “Don’t get picky. You
want to get home, don’t you?”


e-mail responses to

**1. My first thought is what if someone else needs that wheelchair? I use the buffet rule- only take what you need. Leave the rest. You don't have to make a
big deal out of it. Just simply say something to the effect of, "Thanks, but I don't need a wheelchair. Just show me to the gate, please." People often
don't know what a disabled person needs. It is the person's responsibility to tell his or her 'helpers' what he or she needs. Just my opinion.

Melinda Schink AERnet list

**2. I use to wait around on a plane, expecting the assistance I had asked for, sitting there feeling different from all others around me, feeling “There they go and here I set, they are independent and can go when and where they want and here I set not independent and not able to go where and when I want,” and came a day when I found out other blind people felt and acted different, they were confident and skilled in their travel and they didn’t wait around to be lead, they got up and they moved along with all others and where they didn’t know where a sign may be or what a sign may say they asked and with their cane and their brain and with that information they gathered from others, they independently made it from point A to point B. (That was a long sentence, but it was all one thought and I realize that it will not work for all of us, but most of us and if you are some one like me who once didn’t have that thought, now you do.)

Robert Mannerling USA

**3. Poor Susan!
First, when making flight arrangements, she should be sure that she has plenty of time to make connections. This is prudent, even for sighted travelers.
Second, she should have made sure that the flight attendants knew where she was seated, and asked to have them radio ahead to be sure someone was there
to take her to her next gate, as the connection was very close.
Third, don't fret about the wheel chair! Just tell them all you need is an elbow to hang on to, and then boogie for that connecting flight. Escorts usually
have communication devices and can call ahead to have a flight held up as long as she is on her way.
Fourth, don't be afraid to tell people you are blind and need help, darn it! Then take charge and don't let other people who have a tendency to think they
know what you need, take control of your situation. Express your needs and be firm about what you want and where you are going, then enjoy the rest of
your trip!

Jim Theall (frequent traveler)

**4. You know, I think Susan is making a big deal of this whole thing. If/When I want to get somewhere in an airport, as at Kansas City International,
I will not hesitate to use an electric cart, or a wheelchair, or walk! I have done all three.
In complete objectivity for the benefit of sighted readers of this reply, organizations of the blind, like the National Federation of the Blind
(NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) have done a tremendous amount of good in the past 60 years, in increasing the awareness of the sighted
in the U.S., that the blind are normal individuals, and are able to function independently. However, the primary reason why I left the NFB in 2002 was
because 95% of those people do not think for themselves, but allow the organization's national, state, and local leaderships to think for them.
This TP is just such an example. People in the NFB will remember that when Kenneth Jernigan, the organization's President Emeritus, was dying of
cancer, and was offered a wheelchair in an airport, his first thought was not to accept the offer, for as Susan at first thought here, it was a "civil
rights" issue; Jernigan did finally accept the offer.
Anyone with any sense would know that this is NOT a civil-rights, stereotypical issue! If you have several pieces of luggage, and if you need to
get to a destination in an airport, you will accept a wheelchair! That is NOT degrading! To think otherwise is every bit as senseless as the Resolution
the NFB passed several years ago, condemning guide-dog use.

Jeff Frye Overland Park, Kansas

**5. When events are out of control, you do what you gotta do to get where you gotta get.
Any of us who fly often have been in similar circumstances. As Susan's situation unfolds I can feel the panic rise up in my chest. This is not the time nor the place to pull out the soap box and dust off the speech about independence and the symbol of the wheel chair.
This is the time to thank the fellow travelers for their kindness, hop into the wheel chair and yell, "Mush, Mush!"
Remember, the airport assistant is not a bad person. He/she is just doing what they were asked to do. Even if they agree with you, they may have no control over whether they bring out the chair for the next blind person, or not.

Some of the problem may be controlled prior to arriving at the airport.
When booking flights that include connections, you may want to request a front seat. Stress with the agent the importance of having assistance ready when you arrive. Don't wait for the plane to empty before you exit. Jump up and head for the exit. That always gets the attention of flight attendants. But no matter how carefully you plan, things can go sideways on you. Always try to be ready with a back up plan.
My years of experience tell me that if the requested attendant is not waiting for me, my next flight may leave before I can get there. Before the crowd disappears I began asking in a loud voice, "Can anyone tell me which way it is to gate blank?" Usually someone says, "I'm heading that way, want a hand?"
Never allow yourself to be left standing alone. Never let someone shuttle you off to a "waiting room". If you have to make a scene, so be it. Your goal is to be on that next flight. You'll never see these people again.
One time I had an airport assistant try to put me in a "disabled waiting room" at O'Hare airport in Chicago. He'd met me at the plane pushing a wheel chair. I tossed my bag into the chair and took hold of the back.
"You must ride", he said. "I need the exercise. I've been sitting for three hours," I replied.
"You must sit or I get in trouble," he said without moving.
"Just tell them I refused," I told him.
He began moving down the walkway and I said that I needed to go to such and such gate. "I take you to waiting room", he said.
"No," I insisted, "take me to my gate".
"I come get you when your plane come," he said.
After this went on for a minute, I stopped, grabbed my bag out of the wheel chair and turned away from him.
"Can anyone tell me which way it is to gate Blank?" I shouted.
"You got to come with me", he said, and tried to grab my bag.
"Help!" I shouted. "Stop grabbing my bag!"
Two young men came up. "What's the problem," one of them said.
"I'm trying to get to gate blank and this man is refusing to take me there", I said.
"C'mon," they said, "we'll take you there".

Of course I wrote to the airport management and received a form letter telling me of their policy and why it was important to follow it. I replied, and never heard from them again. But conditions have improved slightly.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L list

**7. This reminds me of a time I was out with a friend who had been invited to attend my birthday party with my daughters. My friend decided the reason she was their was to help me with my manual chair! I objected and she said You forget your blind! Ridiculous! I reamed her out, friend or not I tell them keep your damn hands off my chair! That passenger had no right to force her attentions on a disabled person! The disabled lady should have demanded staff look after her needs, even if it meant she missed her connecting flight by going with a passenger she has absolved the airline from all it's responsibility, Persons who are blind must remember they have both a mouth to yell with and the right to use it!

Diane Victoria Canada

**8. What's so "degrading" or "stereotyping" about a wheelchair?
There are two possible reasons why that person even had a wheelchair handy. Either A) He had just helped another handicapped person get to another flight;
or B) He figured that moving a blind person in a wheelchair would be more quick than walking.
Susan's reaction reflects unnecessary pride. Yes, blind people do want to maintain the greatest degree of independence possible under the circumstances;
but there has to come a time now and then when they just have to admit, "I do need help here." She's going to have to accept it if she's going to make
her flight.
This story reminds me of similar things I've experienced.
Last week at the NFB convention in New Hampshire, a speaker talked on the subject of cane travel. He said, "Mr. so-and-so proved that it is dignified to
use a cane." Later, I spoke to this man, and asked him, "Why worry about dignity? Why should there be a stigma attached to cane use?" The man answered,
"Some people are in denial." I told him, "Well, a cane is just a tool. It should not be a shame to be seen with one, any more than I would be ashamed to
wear my glasses. And, since I can't wear contacts (they hurt), I might as well deal with it." Same thing with the wheelchair.
As far as the wheelchair is concerned: When I was seventeen, I had an eye injury (serious, but not permanent) in a baseball game. I went to the hospital
for treatment. As I left, the doctor insisted that I ride to the door in a wheelchair. I objected, not because I thought it was shameful, but because I
thought it was a waste of time. "My legs are fine," I said. Nevertheless, hospital policy prevailed. But in no way was I ashamed or embarrassed to be seen
in a wheelchair. Nor would I be, if I actually needed one.
In closing, let me say that Susan should stop and think quickly. She should realize that this airport is packed with total strangers, most of whom are just
as rushed as she is. She need not worry about appearances, since most of those people will probably ignore her, and those who do notice will probably forget
about it in the course of their own business anyway. I would assume that Susan is, in all likelihood, still a little "stigmatized" by a cane, and is even
more ashamed of that big (though temporary) wheelchair.

David Lafleche

**9. She should not complain about the wheelchair because she already gave the airport staff the image of the helpless little blind woman. She should have gotten
off her arse as the people were opening the overhead bins. She deserved to miss the connecting flight because she was too helpless to figure out where
the connecting flight leaves. She is the type of person that causes and creates these stereotypes. Her second notion about not being picky applies there.
Now, if she goes out into the terminal, she is guaranteed to miss the connection, and the wheelchair is the best option.


**10. I can remember being in an airport after my plane landed and feeling pretty apprehensive. I wouldn't use the wheelchair even if I was late for my flight.
I think I would have kept walking and asked someone for directions instead of waiting for airline personnel to come help me since time was of the essence.
But I could identify with that part of Susan who wanted instant help. But being in a wheelchair wouldn't be the answer for me.

Mary Jo Partyka New Jersey

**11. Exactly, the airport people messed up royally but at least someone has come to help her and she'll be able to catch her connecting flight. she can take
it up with the airlines later.

Patricia Hubschman

**12. I read this thought provoker this was a good scenario. I feel that Susan and other disabled people, should not have to wait for other passengers to deplane. They
should be the first to be assisted off the plane by airport personal. I believe that the flight attendants and entire on board plane crew should be held
accountable for the disabled a passenger get off the plane, get to their next plane or airport terminal and waiting their with Susan until relieved by
airport personal who has been trained and ready to assist Susan. I feel she was lucky to find a couple willing to take the time and responsibility to help
her. She could have been injured trying to deplane if she was left to her own. Susan could have met the wrong kind of people, been lead to someplace other
than the main concourse of the airport and could have been robbed, raped and or killed. I do understand her fear of being seen as unable to take care of
herself, when she became alarmed at the wheelchair. But logic would tell me to accept the offer because she was pressed for time, and could have missed
her connecting flight. In a wheelchair, she and the airport assistant could move much faster than walking. I think that Susan must realize that pride
is a luxury she could not afford. It should not matter how you get to the mountain, just so long you get there.

John Minnesota

**13. This situation is an interesting one. There so many factors that go into the decision the blind traveler has to make. How experienced, and effective, is
she at traveling. Has she been trained to take on the challenges of an airport, and is she familiar with the one she is in? Does she truly believe that
she could handle traveling through an airport on her own?

Many blind people can handle this type of situation without assistance, but not everyone can. Knowing your own ability is very important in these situations,
but also being willing to go beyond what you, or others, might expect of you is equally as important. When you are pressed for time, the pressure can cause
you to make mistakes, and if your orientation is not your strongest suit, well, airports can seem impossible. In my early days as a blind traveler, I had
been trained to always ask for assistance, and that is just what I did, although I never accepted riding in a wheelchair. Usually when they were offered,
I could politely refuse, and have the person walk along side me. In most situations I took the persons arm, and that worked fine, simply because I didn't
realize at first it wasn't always necessary. As I gained experience, and developed a stronger philosophy, I began to simply walk with the person, not using
human guide. Being a cane travel instructor, I had many opportunities to improve my travel skills and experiment, and of course, I felt that I had an obligation
to be a role model for my students, so I also pushed my own personal envelope. Later, when I had lots of time between flights, I would just take off, ask
directions along the way, and even though it sometimes left me feeling a bit scared, I always made it to my gate. I've now reached the point that I usually
don't have to ask for assistance from airline, or airport, personnel, rather I just head off based on some basic directions, and check with folks I meet
along the way. As long as I have at least forty-five minutes or so, and the distance isn't clear to the other end of the airport given the limited time,
I will head off on my own. The important thing I came to realize was, it isn't as difficult to travel through airports independently as I was first taught
to believe. What once seemed scary has become routine, and with longer times between flights, I often take the time to explore a little, locating restrooms,
sandwich shops, or even to browse a gift shop. If the time is short, I will sometimes ask for assistance, and I do my best to have some smaller bills
with me to tip the airline, or airport, employee that has provided the assistance. There is one situation in which I always do ask to take somebody's elbow,
and that is in those rare cases, where the small plane I either need to walk to, or from, is across the tarmac, since it is a very large open area, it
is very noisy, there are many hazards that I may not be aware of, and remaining oriented using your hearing just isn't practical.

These days, the only thing that stresses me out about flying, is getting through security. Having to take off my shoes, remove my belt, empty my pockets,
explain some of the items in my carry-on, and then also have to insist that I need my cane to walk through the metal detector, usually leaves me a bit
the worse for wear. I have to say though, even this hassle is becoming less of an issue to me.

I would say to folks that are feeling a bit uncertain about trying to travel through an airport on their own, give it some thought. If you can travel through
your local shopping mall, well the experience is very similar. There are lots of folks in the airport that will be willing to provide you with directions,
or otherwise answer your questions, and lots of sighted folks get lost in big airports, so if your worried about looking foolish, don't be. If you have
a lot of time between flights, why not give it a try? If your basic travel skills are good, you may just surprise yourself. I know I did the first time
I tried it, and as scary as it was, I felt really good when I got to my gate.

Jeff Altman MA NOMC Lincoln, Nebraska, USA NFB Rehabilitation Professional list

**14. I can scarcely add to the eloquent response from my colleague, Jeff Altman, but I'll nonetheless give it a shot. I have come to appreciate traveling through
airports as an interesting adventure with each and every flight. I have definitely done my share of flying, both nationally and internationally, and it
never ceases to amaze me the response I get from kindly airport personnel. I have also gotten offers of assistance ranging from a red cap bringing out
a wheelchair at O'Hare airport when all I had asked for was directions to the South Shore train, to airport staff informing me that they didn't think they
could permit me to proceed on my own, insisting, instead, that I await the "cart." After a give and take that seemed to last for hours, the Red Cap insisting
that I should ride in the wheelchair and that he could get me there real quick, my polite but growing indignation and refusal to use the wheelchair, and
finally the Red Cap saying that if I wouldn't use the wheelchair then he was not permitted to assist me at all. That was perfectly satisfactory to me
since all I wanted was directions which I could obtain from any passer by, and that's just what I did.

The general approach I take goes like this:

I realize, going in, that I am going to get offers of assistance to the enth degree no matter what. I make it a game, therefore, to see how far I can get
through the process without asking or receiving help. Most airports, like other routine travel routes, have a rather predictable pattern. One finds the
customer service desk for the particular airline upon which one will be flying, usually inside, near the entrance where either a taxi or other car has
dropped someone off, at least in most larger airports. After checking in and being asked if I need help to the gait, I reply, "no, if you would just kindly
point me in the right direction, I'll be fine." There is normally a steady stream of folks heading that way, sometimes it involves riding a tram to another
concourse, but it's a well trodden path. Security, well, of course, that's a saga in of itself. Once one gets through it, though, the rest is relatively
simple. The gaits are usually marked by letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, etc, corresponding with a number of the specific gait, A 10, B 11, or C 12,
for example. There are always people around who know how to find each gait. Pre-boarding, this is a matter of personal preference, too, I suppose. Speaking
for myself, I generally do not opt to do so because, the way I figure it, once I've placed myself under their perceived custody, if you will, then I've
relinquished precious control over my own travel experience to a degree with which I am not comfortable. Practically speaking, after such occasion that
I happened to pre-board , I've been told to wait until everyone else has deplaned before I rise to do so upon landing. That way, someone could tend to
me. Frankly, after a flight of any length, I am just as anxious to get to my destination as anyone else without having to wait until the very last.

Once again, the experience of traveling through an airport, whether it is one with which I am quite familiar or one through which I am traveling for the
first time, for me is an adventure. If there is precious little time between connections, I might modify my strategy to solicit a little more help than
I would ordinarily for the sake of expediency. Once at the Pittsburgh International Airport, feeling particularly tired and grumpy, and having just short
of a half hour until my next connection, I relented to riding the "cart" to my gait. After picking up a number of elderly folks, their baggage, and small
children, I had missed my connection. I then had to wait 2 1/2 hours for a flight that was less than 20 minutes in duration. It was only an hour an a
half by automobile. Now I was really grumpy!

The salient point here is that no two blind people are quite the same in terms of their ability to travel independently in any situation. The same rule
of thumb applies to all of them, though. To the helpful airport staff, train conductor, or taxi cab driver, it is always a safe bet to first ask if the
blind individual requires some assistance. If they don't, just stand back and watch. You might learn something new!

Maurice Peret, NOMC Virginia USA OandM list

**15. Since I am a guide dog handler, I will sometimes put my carry on stuff in a wheelchair and explain that my dog needs to stretch his legs and we can go much
quicker if we walk. Often I walk so quickly that the meet and assist person is scrambling in our wake calling out the turns. If the gates are on the
same concourse, I will get off the plane and ask the personnel at the gate which direction to go and start walking. When I think I have gone far enough
I'll ask someone to tell me which gate we are passing. It works pretty well when there is a tight connection. I always tip cart drivers and meet and
assist people too because they are often underpaid. Whatever happens, I try to remain cheerful, alert and work with the situation I face. In the case
of the person seated on the flight, I would have been up and off as quickly as possible to give myself the maximum time to get to the next gate on time.
My dog goes into turbo gear in airports and wants to be off the plane as quickly as possible. The pup that boards and crawls under the seat in front
of me to sleep contentedly during the flight becomes a whining excited maniac once we are on the ground. His normal graceful saunter becomes a jog trot
to cover the most ground as quickly as possible. Guess he assumes we are always on a tight schedule! For me, the question of when to ask for help and how
much help to agree too depends on the situation. A smile, a tip, and courtesy seem to work well.

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega USA

**16. My first thought is how so many of us-sighted or otherwise - WANT to be independent (NOTE: I didn't say ALL as SOME folks actually LOVE the attention, etc-sighted
or not, disabled or not!) I have always encouraged my students to be as independent as possible reminding them that we ALL need help sometimes and
the Interdependence we have on EACH OTHER. It is the WAY we go about helping others that is often seen as "crippling" whether that person is physically,
visually or cognitively impaired. Even after all the years of teaching the VI, I have to check MYSELF regularly to keep MY own attitudes in line!
Thanks for the provokers of thoughts!

Cheryl Baker OandM list

**17. I've found the 800 number for the Air Carrier Access hotline to be most useful in airports and on actual aircraft when disputes just can't be resolved any
other way. Handing someone my cell phone with a federal employee on the other end who can explain to them the error of their ways usually solves the issue

Jenine Stanley OandM list

**18. FYI - If anyone has difficulty obtaining appropriate assistance at the airport or is treated unfairly (including being forced into a wheelchair) you can
ask to speak to a Complaint Resolution Official (CRO). Every airport is required to have at least one, their job is to resolve the problem on the spot.
You could also file a complaint with the Aviation Consumer Protection Commission at 202-366-2220, or write to them at Aviation Consumer Protection Commission, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room 4107, C-75,
400 7th St. SW, Washington DC 20590. The US Department of Transportation also has a toll free hotline for air travelers with disabilities. If you have a
complaint or want to learn your rights as an air passenger, you may call them at
1-800-778-4838 or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY).

Karissa Hoff, COMS
Center for the Visually Impaired 739 W. Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30308 OandM list

**19. That's an interesting and worthwhile discussion. I'm sure many of us have stories, many horror stories, of experiences at airports. I used to receive
help. What got me off of it was when one guy followed me into the restroom and proceeded to wait near me as I . . . did my business.
When I did receive assistance I would always ask for someone to walk me to the gate. This, of coarse, didn't always happen. For example, one time the
got one of those big electric cart things that beeped as it backed up and yelled stereotype all over it. I was pretty peaved as my friend reassured me
to just take the ride, but I would have much rather walked. Even if it meant I missed the flight. I would be even more resistant to a wheelchair.
In the end, we all must pick our battles, and ultimately live with the consequences of our actions.

Brent Heyen Lincoln, NE

**20. Very interesting Thought Provoker indeed!!

When I went to Europe 10 years ago, I too was put into a wheelchair. They all seemed to assume that I was totally blind even though I have some usable vision.

Since then, I don't think that's happened to me, thank goodness! I think it should be up to the passenger and not what the airport thinks is best.

Christine NFB Human Services workers list

**20. First, I understand the instinctive reaction to shy away from using the wheelchair. Since I am a guide-dog user, this would not be a practical option for me, so I have refused wheelchairs. I have, however, put my bags on them for easy transport. My dog and I have ridden in the carts that are sometimes used.

ON the other hand, if someone is in the wheelchair, they are going to be moving quickly enough by the other preoccupied passengers that no one is likely to stop and think, "Wow, look at that blind person in a wheelchair." People are more concerned with getting where they want to go. Still, we do have the right to refuse accommodations we don't want.

To the person who said Susan and the attendant would be faster in the wheelchair: This is not necessarily true. The attendant has to walk whether Susan uses the chair or not. If Susan is at least as fast as the attendant, using the chair won't cut anything off their time.

Also, for Mr. Jarvis: This is the kind of thing that could be addressed with the Department of Transportation. The DOT does investigate these complaints. Recently, an airline tried to force a friend of mine who travels with a guide dog to sit in the bulkhead. My friend complained to the DOT, and she was told that the airline was found to be in violation of the Air Carrier Access Act. A warning was issued to the airline. If other complaints are filed and this is seen to be consistent behavior on the part of that airline's personnel, my friend's situation could be used in legal proceedings to force the airline to comply with the ACA.
So I encourage anyone who has an unpleasant airline experience to write a letter of complaint to the DOT as well as the airline in question.

Angie Matney, Richmond, VA USA

**21. Just got the new provoker. This for me is an easy one. I would say, "Thanks for the wheelchair. I can walk just fine. Let's put my stuff in there and take it. That way, I can manage my guide dog better and can walk even faster." Then I would smile and off we would go.

Sherri from Orlando

**22. I don't have as much of a problem with going from Point A to Point B in a wheelchair in an airport as I do with the general attitude of the individual who goes along with it. Case in point: last summer I landed back home in Seattle after attending a conference for work in Los Angeles. I was told that someone would assist me from the gate to Baggage Claim, where my luggage and hopefully my ride home would be waiting. Upon entering the gate area from the jet way, I was informed that the individual giving assistance would be right with me. Within seconds, I heard someone approaching me talking into one of those squawk radios, and I heard him say that he had to help a "blind boy" to baggage claim. Being that I had left boyhood behind around the midpoint of the Carter Administration, I bristled. Frankly, at that point, the wheelchair (which he did have, of course) became a secondary issue to me.

Kevin LaRose

**23. Until September of this year, I have averaged around one flight a week to various cities in and outside the US mainly for work, but sometimes for pleasure.
Traveling is a wonderful experience, even if you're blind. Having been blind since birth, I realize, as do many people in my shoes, that there is much
more to the world than sight, despite what we continually hear from our sighted friends, loved ones, and sometimes not so loved ones.
While it's critical for us to maintain our dignity, resist and fight against stereotypes and stand up for ourselves and by doing that help others around
us, sometimes one just has to be practical. While I wouldn't normally take a wheel chair if offered to me at an airport (and it is almost always offered),
I would make an exception in Susan's case. To me, it's a question of "either get on the chair or miss your flight", and for all we know, this could have
been the last flight of the day, or another flight wouldn't be due for hours to come. Taking the wheel chair in this situation is the best course of action.
In fact, being from Denver Colorado, and knowing the airport as well as I do, I would have asked the passengers to guide me to the next gate, because
Denver, in terms of airport assistance, is very bad when it comes to that sort of thing.

Zuhair Mah'd International computer consultant
Zuhair Mahd Consulting PO Box 3644, Boulder, CO, 80307-3644

**24. That says it all. In some airports those neat little carts aren't available, and I've let them put me in a wheelchair for convenience. yes, it's embarrassing, and I just joke about it a lot. Like when I stand up from the chair, I’ll say "See a miracle. The lord has healed me!", and that always cracks up the people around me. I've come to the point where I'll take any assistance offered, but then that's just me.

Peace & friendship,
Nancy Lynn

**25. Wow!!! This can be a really sticky wicket when you're weighing fulfilling a stereotype vs. being proud by refusing to use the wheelchair. Lord knows
I've gotten into many situations like this. She could ask how long it would take to walk to the next concourse. If there's plenty of time for her to
walk down there and board the plane with no hassles (hassles according to her own judgment), then she can kindly decline to use the wheelchair. This I
would do. If, on the other hand, it will take too long for her to walk down to the next concourse and board the plane before the plane actually leaves,
then she could choose to use the wheelchair. This, I would also do. Yes, using the wheelchair may be fulfilling the stereotype of blind people not being
able to walk fast, up stairs and escalators, or managing crowds. However, when it comes down to the knitty-gritty, being able to make it home is more
important than being so proud by not using the wheelchair.
Even when I'm not in a rush to get from point A to point B, there have been many times when it was easier for me to hold onto the person's arm rather
than follow behind them as I use my cane. Such cases have been when I feel that it's too crowded, or when I would rather save me and the person offering
assistance the frustration of navigating as two people instead of one long train. Another case is when I would rather save me and the person offering
assistance the frustration and confusion of them trying to give clear directions and me trying to put all the pieces together among all the confusing details.
Of course, these are times when my destination is only a few feet away from where I am. Otherwise, in the many other cases, I get directions from somebody
and then go on my merry way.
In short, I'm not picky about the method someone uses to help me. At least, I'm getting help instead of no help because of my pickiness.


**26. When I read through this most recent Thought Provoker, I thought back to my only experience of flying alone. It was about 1996, and my parents had arranged
for me to fly out to Seattle to visit my mom's brother Al. They drove me to O'Hare International Airport on the morning of my flight, and got me checked
in and all. Prior to this my father had called the airline to request passenger assistance. We were met at the ticket area by a very friendly agent who
introduced herself, and said she'd be accompanying me to the airplane where I'd be met by a flight attendant to help with pre-boarding. So my parents bid
me a fond farewell and left me in the capable hands of the ticket agent, who assisted me with everything. Once we arrived at baggage claim, she helped
with my bags. Then on we went to the waiting area for my flight out of Chicago. At the terminal we were met by the head flight attendant who would be helping
me. The ticket agent went back to her other duties, and the flight attendant and I went on the plane. Once at my seat, she took off my bags and told me
where she was putting them. My cane was folded up in my backpack to create more room. Then the attendant introduced me to two flight attendants-in-training
who gave me the briefing and explained the location of exits and all. They then left me to check on other passengers, and once breakfast came around they
came back to help me with orienting my tray, cutting my food and pouring my drink. I had requested they do this. Once at the airport in Seattle, I was
escorted off the plane by one of these trainees. They had an airport official page my uncle, which wasn't really necessary but I did appreciate it. After
all he was just sitting on a nearby bench waiting for me as I soon found out. My uncle happened to be an O&M instructor at the time, so he had me use my
cane and follow his voice to baggage claim, and then out of the airport. Once out of the airport, I took his elbow and we went to his car and drove to
the house where he fixed me a hot dog, some chips, and a Coke for lunch. I experienced the same friendly and courteous service upon my return to Chicago.
A few days later I wrote to the president of the airline expressing my satisfaction with the service which I had received during the course of this trip.
I have since flown together with my family several times. We have always elected to pre-board the plane with those other passengers who choose to do so.
We feel this creates less confusion in the long run, and it makes things move a lot faster so as not to create unnecessary flight delays. Besides me, my
brother and a sister are also blind, and my sister uses a nebulizer and a vest machine due to chronic lung problems. We take the nebulizer with us, but
the vest machine is rather heavy and not very portable and it stays at home whenever possible. I received an email several years ago containing the story
of a blind man who had taken it upon himself to be totally independent in a rather large airport, and he refused any type of assistance whatsoever. When
I was enrolled in an office skills training program at the Chicago Lighthouse, I took the train into downtown Chicago and would have a conductor radio
into the station prior to our arrival, requesting an escort to take me to a cab. That program ended up being of no help whatsoever, but that's a whole
other story. Often times when I took the train downtown, I would ride with a very friendly couple from my church, both of whom were attorneys. One or both
of them would sometimes escort me to a taxi. On the return trip at the end of the day, I would take a taxi to the train station, and the driver would go
in the station and solicit assistance for me. My mom or someone else with a car would meet me at the other end of the line.
I have never been offered a wheelchair in an airport, but I was always offered one when I was in a hospital program for a short time. I would sometimes
take the wheelchair and at other times I'd just walk holding onto the person's elbow. One thought came to mind when reading this Thought Provoker. It is
mostly up to each of us to determine ourselves if and when we need assistance, and where and how that assistance is to be provided. However, if at an airport
or some other crowded place and one of us is offered a wheelchair, I say take it in order to expedite the process and move things along. I don't feel this
should have anything to do with dignity. After all, what happens if one of us misses our flight because we don't want to obtain the proper assistance.
With all that goes on in an airport, such as flights coming and going at an alarming rate from all over, it would be very difficult at best not to accept
assistance. Also, not everyone has the same level of travel skills, and some people require assistance no matter what the situation may be. Resolutions
like the one adopted by the NFB barring guide dog use as a means of mobility, need to be seriously and carefully thought over before being passed. I was
thoroughly disgusted when I read the letter from the NFB member who condemned an airline for suggesting that blind people might want to preboard the aircraft.
Who does the NFB member think she is, trying to dissuade blind people such as her from preboarding if they so choose? Enough said.

Jake Joehl

**27. Being sighted, I can't put myself in Susan's place, but I think I would likely have climbed into the wheelchair at that point and said, "Damn the torpedoes,
full speed ahead." She was tired, running very late for her flight connection, and just wanted to get home. There are times and places to fight battles
of principle, but this wasn't one of them.

Carolyn Gold Clearwater, FL

**28. Well, with out telling who I am, I’ll say that I’d take the wheel chair and anything and any thing else to make my day easier. I bet there are a lot of us out there. And don’t care what other people think. I might admit that I would have first started taking the wheel chair out of fear of getting lost trying to move around with no sight. But now, it’s more of a life style. And this is all I’ll talk about for now.

Don’t B. Surprise

**29. My favorite thing to do, if I have a long layover, is to ride the tram around, till time to take the one that is near the gate where I'll catch my connecting flight. I had a long layover in San Francisco and it was a lot of fun.

Richie Gardenhire, Anchorage, Alaska, Owner/co-moderator, Apple-of-my-Eye.

**30. I suppose flying is worth it because in most cases, it's the only way to get where you want to go. Even if I could drive, I can't see driving thousands of miles and adding that much extra time to your trip.

As for moving sidewalks, they are an efficient way to move people. I just haven't figured out how you know when you're at the end and it's time for you and dog to get off.

Looks like Chicago airport is notorious for using the special services room to get rid of the disabled. I got to the gate of a connecting flight and was told I had to go to that room if I wanted help on the flight. One sighted man accompanying someone ended up escorting eight blind people going to the ACB convention in Louisville. The plane was small, and you had to go outside and climb those steps you can see through. When they saw the job that noble passenger had taken on, the airline personnel on the plane came out to help.

Abby Vincent ACB-L list

**31. My airport thank God has golf carts which are far less stigmatizing for those who can walk. They have golf carts because the alternative is one of those lovely people movers which is like a lovely escalator which is just so easy to navigate with a cane.

Eugene Mariani ACB-L list

**32. There is no way anyone is going to force me into a wheelchair. I'm blind but can walk just fine. I have rights, too, the right to assistance the way I need it. One size does not fit all. If they try to force a wheelchair on me, I'll walk away, start using my cane and ask directions just as I would in any other strange place. They make you come to the airport so early these days that there's plenty of time for an adventure. I remember once I was hungry and noticed a restaurant near me. The lady who had shown me my seat said she didn't want me to go there. I might miss my flight. As soon as she walked away, I went off and had a great lunch, although, yep, a bit expensive. Needing assistance is one thing, but I'm not going to be treated like a child or whatever. I had two hours to wait for that flight that, that lady was so worried about me missing.

In addition, maybe the reason they're cutting down on those carts is because they have those moving sidewalks like the ones in the Pittsburgh airport. I don't like them, but everyone rides them, and I did that time, too. I'm sure if I went to the airport enough I'd soon be used to them. After all, years ago I used to hate escalators, but now I think nothing of using them, even if I'm carrying my coffee cup or tray with a meal to my desk in the office. I prefer escalators to elevators, as long as I can figure a way to grab the rail with one hand. I guess the moving side walks would be much the same after a few rides. The only trouble is that I haven't wanted to travel much lately. If I do, it's a question of time. With all its security delays, rules, etc, is flying really worth it? Not if I can find a more comfortable way. At least if I take a train I could get food. On a bus there are rest stops some times, and you can bet I'd have some sandwiches and a thermos of coffee in my backpack. On the first flight I took in 1976 I can remember having a stack of pancakes with real syrup and butter, sausage, hot coffee, and juice, served on a real plate and in a nice mug, and real glass. Yes, the silverware was real, too. No plastic! I dozed off after breakfast under a blanket the lady handed me. There was even a pillow in that overhead. I awoke shortly before our landing in Denver. It had been a flight from Pittsburgh to Denver, my first flight ever. There was no hassle about wheelchairs or any of that nonsense. Maybe the people who worked in airports were better educated in those days. Now on my last flight, there was nothing to eat or drink. We were crammed together three in a row on each side of the aisile. There was a screaming baby in front of me. Fly the friendly skies and be hassled about wheelchairs in the airport? Not this lady! Not if I can avoid it. Right now it's not an issue, because my favorite destination is my house. Work is okay until I get tired. (grin.).

Brenda Mueller ACB-L list

**33. I think anyone who asks for travelers' assistance ends up with a wheelchair.
though I let people know I can walk, (and sometimes I get to), I usually accept the chair and pile my carry-ons on me and the assister can wheel me to my next gate relaxed, weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic with no fear that I will bump into someone, unless they r the one doing the bumping.

barb Mattson ACB-L list

**34. If the assistant arrives with a chair, I now take it whether I want it or not. The reason is, the assist people are not told if we are elderly or disabled. Also, many airports make the assistant responsible for the chair. If we refuse it, they have to take it to a safe place, or risk having to pay for the chair if they lose it. Sometimes, they don't mind the luggage going in the chair, but it is their training that is lax, not the assistant. Whatever is the least trouble, I go with it. These people are contractors who usually only get sub-minimum wages and depend on tips.
Not speaking English is a real problem for me. I have missed connections because of the person not speaking English. I don't blame the assistant; I blame the people hiring them. We have requested assistants who understand English and that has been much easier. Certainly, air travel is a real pain, and no fun at all. I just try to not let it get to me.

Billie Jean Keith, in Arlington Virginia ACB-L list

**35. I do not accept any assistance I don't really need. I've been offered everything from wheelchairs, to carts, etc. and I have tried to lighten things up with a little humor. My dog needs the exercise before the flight.
I wouldn't think of using a wheelchair that someone who can't walk really needs! I'm sure the chair was meant for someone else and I would prefer to walk with the dog rather than get her caught beneath the wheels of the chair...or, it's my eyes that are bad, not my feet so let's walk! When I can call ahead and request the assistance I want, it just irks me when the message gets screwed up somewhere. One time when I was met with a wheelchair and I had my dog I said to the attendant, "Oh my gosh!!! How am I going to push you in that chair and still handle the dog???" I must have looked as if I were going to cry because a passenger came over and took the chair for her mom and I walked with them to my next gate!

Jo Taliaferro

**36. I guess if its a matter of taking the wheelchair or missing your plane, then for me the wheelchair is the answer. Sometimes we have to put our pride aside.

Terri Goodrich ACB-L list

**37. I can recall several occasions when the meet-and-assist person offered the wheelchair, my husband, who uses a Seeing Eye dog, would laughingly say, "Why would someone with six feet need a wheelchair?"

The worst situation of this sort that I ever encountered was in Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. The woman not only refused to let me and my Seeing Eye dog go with her unless I got into the wheelchair, but she took me to the wrong gate. I really do not think her command of English was sufficient for her to have understood my real needs. This incident took place several months before the September 11 attacks and the creation of the Transportation Security Administration. I no longer remember how I found a competent English speaker, but I did get someone else, and I made my flight.

Kathy Blackburn ACB-L list

**38. In days when I was younger and fitter, and BTW, required by work to engage in a lot more air travel, I always seemed to be lucky and never got stuffed into a wheel chair. I had more than one ground assist person explain to me that it was S O P TO show up with a chair because they weren't told the passenger's specific needs, and need for a chair seemed to be the most common. I don't generally think of myself as having a "commanding presence," but I never had a skycap or airline person make an issue of it once I'd made it politely but firmly clear I wasn't gonna sit in that chair.
Given a clear choice, they always seemed to prefer a quick walk with sighted assist over pushing about 190 pounds of me through the airport. It could take a few extra seconds for them to find a place to ditch the chair, but I never missed a flight because of that. My favorites were the ones who must have looked me up and down once over and said, "You're not gonna need this chair, are you?"

Cheers, John Huffman ACB-L list

**39. I agree with Nancy. Sometimes the practical concerns of the moment, I. e. making my plane, win out over principle.

Andy Baracco ACB-L list

**40. Well put Andy. Sometimes, pride gets in the way of making an important airport connection.

Best regards,
Frank Casey ACB-L list

**40. Urban legends abound in all walks of life, so I shouldn't be surprised to find an occasional sample in the thought Provokers. In the responses to Provoker
100, two such urban legends cropped up, one from Jeff
Frye and one from Jake Joehl. Both of these respondents to the TP 100 stated that the National Federation of the Blind had adopted resolutions against
the use of dog guides. That has never happened and, I venture to guess, that it never will. I know that Ed Eames and some of the other members of the
Dog Guide committee felt offended by a resolution adopted by the Federation that they felt classified dog guide users as second class citizens, but that
was an interpretation placed on a resolution that did not even come close to denouncing the use of dog guides. I venture to say that, if some individual
using a dog guide experienced denial or discrimination in any transportation facility or any public accommodations, he/she would have the NFB standing
with them shoulder to shoulder in any kind of proceeding required to straighten the matter out. I would challenge Jeff and Jake to find a Federation resolution
that does what they claim.

James S. Nyman Lincoln Nebraska USA

**42. I am not a "frequent" traveler. Flying on the commuter plain from our home
area to Seattle I had assistance walking from the plane into the building.
I was told to sit in this chair & someone would be back shortly to take me
to my connecting flight. I did not understand where I was but soon realized
I was sitting next to a lady waiting for the same flight. I guess this was
the handicap room! We were both going to Portland for our 4 weeks
training at the Boring campus of GDB,. We chatted & waited. Time was
slipping by so this lady got up & asked the lady at the desk when someone
was coming for us or should we be getting to the gate. The lady assured my
companion that help would come for us.
Finally it was almost time for our plane to leave & still we sat. (This
connecting flight was with the same commuter airlines.) So again my
companion got up & again asked the lady at the desk. "They will come here
for you!" she was told.
About 5 minutes later we heard my name being called over the intercom,
telling me to get to the gate!

This time the lady at the desk made a call & soon we two were being rushed,
& I do mean rushed, down many steps to be hurried across to our waiting
plane! We never did hear what the mix up was but were thankful to be on the

Now to shift gears to when my wife & I flew back to Atlanta. Going from
home to Seattle & then to Atlanta made a long trip & I knew I needed to find
a relief place for my guide dog. As soon as we got off the plane in Atlanta
we hailed a host for the airlines we were traveling on. He listen as I
explained the problem. Then he turned to a phone & after a short
conversation returned, saying he would take us out. I left everything with
my wife, took his elbow & heeled my guide out this service door, down the
steps to the tarmac, threading our way between many large planes, most with
engines roaring & on until we came to a small spot of grass. My guide is
trained to go on pavement but the grass was fine.
Back in the building, this same host took us to the room where we would take
the tram to the gate for our connecting flight. Not until he was sure the
hostess there knew which tram we needed did he leave us. We were very
impressed with this host's help, without any sign of condescending but just
friendly courtesy, a willingness to help.

Ernie Jones Walla Walla, WA

**43. I noted that one of the folks responding to this TP is a little confused regarding a resolution passed by the NFB. I would like to encourage that individual
to please go to the NFB web site, and look up the real resolution.
I think it needs to be clarified that nobody, NFB or otherwise, has ever passed a resolution banning the use of dog guides. In fact, many NFB members are
dog users, and the Federation has come to the defense of many, many, dog users whenever their rights have been challenged.
The resolution is strictly in regard to what is believed to be appropriate to training programs, and has nothing to do with travel in airports, or any other
public situation.
The resolution does not ban dog guides, but points out quite correctly, that NFB programs are based on learning non-visual alternative techniques, such
as how to travel with a cane, and that the instructors in these programs are not experts in dog travel. therefore, individual's wishing to learn how to
travel better with a dog, need to seek out programs that provide training in traveling with a dog. In addition, in my experience as an O&M instructor,
there are many dog guide users that could benefit from structured discovery based cane travel training, but the use of the dog would interfere with them
learning some of the critical aspects of the training, or the training could potentially interfere with the dog's training. Learning to use a cane takes
extensive practice, and the opportunity to work through challenging situations, without assistance. Many aspects of this part of the learning process,
are exactly the sort of things the dog is trained to do. This, in and of itself, is not the problem, but the development of more advanced skills based
upon these foundational skills is very unlikely to happen, if the individual doesn't first learn the basics.
By all means you should express your point of view, but , please do not create more confusion, or allow yourself to become angry before you have fully researched
the situation. There are already too many misunderstandings out there about the Federation's stand on these issues, and not having your fact straight
can only create more confusion and hard feelings on both sides.

Thank you,
Jeff Altman MA NOMC

Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

**44. To comment on your thought provoker on air travel, well put. There are a couple of questions I would like to ask. Is it possible to travel from the
departed plane to next flight gate without assistance? Even in a large airport? Sure you can ask for directions as you go. However think about receiving
the wrong directions? That becomes very confusing. I have experience this when I still had my sight. Imagine having that happen to you without sight.
I appreciate the fact that one can work it out with enough patience and perseverance. Only if you had sufficient time to find the gate. Then are times
that one can wait along time for assistance. Then after waiting for some time, you realize that no one is coming for one reason or another. How about
when an airport has shuttle by rail?
I would take it as a challenge and most likely end up in trouble. That's not very smart at times, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Jack Mindrup Omaha, Nebraska USA

**45. Good story. Got me to thinking, which of course is the purpose of these scenarios. Anyway, I guess my answer to things is to figure out what works for me. Lots of times I ask directions when I don’t know where I’m going; this includes
airports. I take cues from listening and using my canes. To me jetways, for instance, are no big deal, but then I’ve been blind since birth and grew up with a reasonably healthy expectation of my abilities. On other occasions I’ve never hesitated to get help when needed; sometimes too I’ve been too tired
to do things entirely on my own. So I sometimes have gotten escorts through airports, particularly when I have to get a plane at another location which
is pretty distant from the one at which I debarred, and that second plane is leaving in thirty minutes.

Where I draw the line is wheelchairs and electric carts. I also have to disagree with Mr. Frye’s comment that the decision to use or not use a wheelchair
or electric cart is not a civil rights issue. It may not be for Mr. Frye, but it may be to other individuals. For instance, it’s always a civil rights
issue to me if someone insists that I use a wheelchair or electric cart when such decisions should be mine to make, and not the decision of someone else
who is not really capable of assessing my abilities. And this kind of thing recently happened to my wife some time in 2001, while we were still dating. On this particular occasion, she came to New York to
visit me, and certain airline officials insisted she must have a wheelchair to travel through the airport or she wasn’t going to get assistance. Not only
was she effectively forced, but when she asked to be taken to the ladies’ room, she was told by the person pushing the chair that it wasn’t his responsibility;
all he had to do was get her to the gate. So let’s see. She was. She was not effectively given no option to take a wheelchair or not. She was also not allowed to go to the bathroom. And this wasn’t a civil rights thing on top of the other violations..
John Cavoleski, MN