Advocacy Magazine Advocacy Airlines

Nearly 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, planes still lag behind many buses and trains. Regulations prohibit passengers from sitting in their own wheelchairs on commercial flights.

Come Fly With Me In Chains Byline Katherine Magnoli


 At the age of five I took my first trip on an airplane. I was fairly tiny and a family member carried me on to plane.    Flash forward fifteen years, to my next time on a plane, and it was a very different experience. I, now at the age of twenty, was much bigger in size making it difficult to carry me to my seat. This was the first time I was introduced to the isle chair,a contraption that looks similar to a device used in any thriller to cart away a crazy person. There are straps to tie down a person with a disabilities arms and legs as they are carted like a farmer would cart a bail of hay or various vegetables.

If that’s not scary enough we have the wonderful experience of staff and or other passengers staring at you with eyes of sympathy and sadness. Needless to say at age twenty, this was the worst possible scenario for me to go through. I had spent twelve years being bullied and praying not to be the center of any negative attention.

Another flawed part of separating a person with mobility issuesv from their wheelchair or walker leaving them to endure the isle chair is the risk of their equipment being damaged. Something that has not happened to me personally, but many people that I have known. Leaving me with a thought: There must be a way for a person with mobility issues to fly in a safer less ableist driven way.

I remember the first time I thought about other forms of transportation that those of us with wheelchairs are able to stay seated and just our wheels are strapped down as a safety precaution. I wondered why this was not a possible option for airplanes. I even brought this question up in a conversation with a person who works for a prominent airline. They thought my idea was interesting but showed very little indication of whether or not it would actually ever happen.

This discouraged me a little but in the back of my mind I always wished it were plausible to others. 
Now, in present day, my wish is finally turning into a reality. I’m happy to say that airlines are adapting to the idea of people with wheelchairs being seated in their chair during the flight.  This will not only make them feel like less of a spectacle but help those of us who use wheelchairs gain some independence safety and comfort, making our flying experience more enjoyable. So much of society wants to keep us down by not giving us the same rights, I am glad to see that the airline companies are slowly seeing that maybe we can’t walk but we were meant to fly without any chains.

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