Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Topic started by: Dragonflymom on June 20, 2013, 07:27:04 PM

Title: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Dragonflymom on June 20, 2013, 07:27:04 PM
http://www.williamstillman.com/archive/missed-connections.php

My daughter is on the autism spectrum so this is an issue close to my heart.

Were the airline attendants rude for not noticing the man's distress?  Or would the polite thing be for him to make arrangements in advance to seek whatever accommodations he needs, to avoid possible issues?

What is the polite way to cope with these disabilities that may not be evident at first glance?
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: HorseFreak on June 20, 2013, 08:17:46 PM
I'm not really sure what the poster was looking for in those examples. Security and general policies dictate what they can and cannot do with luggage and missed connections. He missed his flight and had to stay overnight somewhere he was accustomed to which I understand is much more stressful to someone with autism, but how is the staff supposed to know he can't understand the standard directions unless he states what he's not understanding?
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: kherbert05 on June 20, 2013, 08:21:01 PM
I think he should have made arrangements before he booked his flight. Airline staff are NOT mind readers. They can't be expected to spot someone with autism - could you imagine the trouble they could get into IDing the wrong person. He needs to be proactive. I realize that he has a communication problem - maybe a card explaining is difficulty communicating and how people can help him would work.

Also after years of traveling with my Dad, who never had a flight go off without a hitch, I can't imagine traveling with layovers and not having a back up plan of what to do when we get stranded in X.

(Seriously Dad would go over our flights and say Ok,  We have a 5 hour layover in Boston, when we get stranded, we will X, Y, Z. Actually making a connection was a pleasant surprise- but it meant our luggage probably got shipped back to Houston. )


I alert the airlines about my peanut allergy and that I'm carrying an epi (looks like a tube with "mystery" liquid in it when it is in its case). I'm glad I did Air Canada suggested that along with the Rx info on the case, I might want a note from my doctor on stationary explaining why I had to have it on the plane. That was a lifesaver when a TSA agent insisted I had to check it because there were no bees on planes.  ::)  Fortunately his supervisor had a little more common sense. 


Another time, after being rerouted, delayed, and having a full on massive airplane headache from the pressure changes I was given some forms to read to get a voucher for the hotel. I told the representative - I am dyslexic and have a massive headache I can't read these the letters are doing flip flops across the page. She laughed and read the information to me.

I think people are willing to help. The difference between being seen as a SS and getting help is honesty. Give me accommodation Sounds SS. I have x (condition/problem), can you help me by accommodation sounds reasonable.

Not just with staff. You know those monitors with gate information on them in the airports. Many have dark background with light letters - or at least I'm told they are letters they look like ants doing a marching band routine to me. I can't tell you how many times I've asked a fellow traveler, "Sorry but I'm dyslexic and can't read that screen because of the color contrast does it say were Air Canada flight XYZ is departing. I can tell you that every time I ask I get a polite response - and often a quick question about why colors are the problem.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: lovepickles on June 20, 2013, 08:26:38 PM
There is a card you can download from the TSA, I believe, and present it whenever you need to let someone know of a disability, invisible or not. I've used it for an "invisible" disability and never had to say a word.

http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/notification-card
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: *inviteseller on June 20, 2013, 08:39:59 PM
It is up to the traveler (or their caretaker) to inform the airline ahead of time if the person has any form of disability.  Airline workers see thousands of people a day and there is no way to just look and see autism, or peanut allergy, or cilliac...and they should not have to diagnose either.  Who's to say the person having the meltdown at the counter over a missed flight is a SS or mentally ill, or autistic.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Winterlight on June 20, 2013, 09:41:25 PM
I think he's asking for a level of service that simply isn't workable.

In the first case he was anxious- so were the 50 other people trying to get from A to B. These people don't know him- they have no way to know he's on the spectrum. He needed to clarify what kind of help he required.

In the second, I gather it's a tossup whether the bag makes it on or ends up being checked. What was a pilot supposed to do? Yes, he works for the airline, but he has nothing to do with baggage. Deciding to "confront" the FA- who might have been told the bag would make it on and then it got checked by mistake, or a number of other possibilities? Dumb move. Again, it's after the fact. They can't magically make his bag appear. And if five other staff members showed up, then he was probably pretty out of line with the FA.

Additional instructions in writing might be possible, but how many contingencies and languages are they supposed to cover? One staff person trained in accommodating the individual with autism? One per airline? They're already overworked and underpaid, when we're talking gate staff. A quiet room? How long would it stay quiet? How do you reserve it for those in sensory overload?

He needs a routine, and being thrown off makes it difficult for him to cope. I get that, but air travel has so many variables that he should be looking into a companion to handle these problems if he can't. The airline is there to get you from point A to point B. They cannot provide you with personalized service tailored to your every need. If you want that, then look into a private jet.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Ceallach on June 20, 2013, 09:48:43 PM
I think his expectations were unreasonable, if he is unable to handle very basic traveling scenarios such as flight delays or baggage rules then he needs to travel with a companion who can navigate these obstacles for him, or discuss in advance any special accommodations he requires so the airline can provide a person or adapt where feasible to accommodate him. 

In all honesty he comes across very SS in his post, expecting people to know exactly what he needs and adapt everything to suit him on the spot as if he should be their only concern. It's just not realistic.  He needs to plan ahead or to be provided support from a Carer or family member to plan ahead, as the situations he encountered sound fairly standard.   

IMHO it's not an etiquette issue.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: m2kbug on June 20, 2013, 09:58:45 PM
I would think if someone has this level of difficulty dealing with stress or crowds, it would be in his best interest to make arrangements ahead of time or travel with a companion.  I don't what the airlines could specifically do, but it would seem this person may not have escalated if he had someone escorting him from point A to point B, helping him with the bag, or help keep him calm with the missed flight.  Minor children often have a flight attendant staying with them, which something like this might be helpful. 

I really wouldn't know what to do with an autistic person who was upset.  In the first instance he seemed more upset that this person simply wasn't saying the right words that he wanted the right way.  It seemed like they were trying to manage the situation as best they could.  With prior knowledge (I'm not sure how this would be made known), maybe they could have managed things better, if they know how or what to do. 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: kareng57 on June 20, 2013, 10:05:54 PM
I think his expectations were unreasonable, if he is unable to handle very basic traveling scenarios such as flight delays or baggage rules then he needs to travel with a companion who can navigate these obstacles for him, or discuss in advance any special accommodations he requires so the airline can provide a person or adapt where feasible to accommodate him. 

In all honesty he comes across very SS in his post, expecting people to know exactly what he needs and adapt everything to suit him on the spot as if he should be their only concern. It's just not realistic.  He needs to plan ahead or to be provided support from a Carer or family member to plan ahead, as the situations he encountered sound fairly standard.   

IMHO it's not an etiquette issue.


Exactly.  Some situations are impossible to compensate.  For example, if Airline A's flight from Chicago to Denver is cancelled because of weather conditions, Invisibly-Disabled passenger is very unlikely to find that Airline B has another flight that will cheerfully fly him there, at the same time.

Air travel is stressful.  He does need to deal with it, or find other options.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Onyx_TKD on June 21, 2013, 12:18:31 AM
I'm not really sure what the poster was looking for in those examples. Security and general policies dictate what they can and cannot do with luggage and missed connections. He missed his flight and had to stay overnight somewhere he was accustomed to which I understand is much more stressful to someone with autism, but how is the staff supposed to know he can't understand the standard directions unless he states what he's not understanding?

I agree completely. This man had a chance to sit down and write an article to raise awareness of the issues he had when flying. It was presumably under favorable conditions when he was calm, in control of the situation, with plenty of time to organize his thoughts, proofread, and edit them, and yet I still have no idea what he expected the airline to do!  :-\ No wonder the airline didn't know what to do with him!

In the first case, he had a delayed flight that almost caused him to miss his connection and was unhappy when the employee he spoke to offered him transportation to his gate. What was he asking the employee to do in the first place? He had not yet missed his flight, so getting him to the gate ASAP (e.g. by having someone drive him there on a cart) seems like the ideal solution. There's no need to discuss his "options" if there's still time to get him on his flight. The longer he stood there talking to the employee and resisting her offer of transportation, the more likely it was that he would miss his connection.

In the second case, someone made a mistake. Either someone gave him incorrect information or luggage handler screwed up. Either way, it would be unfortunate and frustrating and stressful for anyone. However, once the mistake has been made, there's only so much they can do beyond telling him where his bag will be (at the baggage claim) and apologizing for the error. He clearly feels that the pilot dismissed his concerns, but I wonder how long this conversation went on before the pilot walked away. The author said he was "trying to explain [his] situation to [the pilot]." To what purpose? Neither making the pilot understand his plight nor "confronting" the flight attendant who gave the erroneous information was going to make his bag reappear. If he wanted some kind of help until he got his bag back or compensation for the inconvenience or a quiet place to calm himself down, then the information desks inside the airport seem like a more appropriate place to ask about that.

I don't understand how his suggestions of "one staff person in each airport trained in accommodating the individual with autism, or perhaps a quiet, secluded area for persons who are in sensory overload, or additional information in writing that would be more tangible" would have improved either of the described situations. In the first case, waiting for that staff person or sitting in the quiet area would likely have caused him to actually miss his flight, making the situation worse. In the second case, I suppose the pilot could have called the designated autism-assistance person or directed him to the quiet room if he explained that's what he needed. It still would have required him to explain what specific and practical help he required (something he seems to have trouble articulating, even when calm) and it would not have gotten his bag back.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: blarg314 on June 21, 2013, 12:27:01 AM
I think his expectations were unreasonable, if he is unable to handle very basic traveling scenarios such as flight delays or baggage rules then he needs to travel with a companion who can navigate these obstacles for him, or discuss in advance any special accommodations he requires so the airline can provide a person or adapt where feasible to accommodate him. 

That is key.

For some things you can make arrangements before the flight to handle issues - maybe you need a wheelchair, or a special meal, or to be sure they aren't serving peanuts.  You might have special equipment that needs to be transported with you.

For other things, the airline really can't do much. If you're having a meltdown because a flight was delayed and your carefully planned itinerary was thrown off, or there's a problem with the luggage, that's an indication that you probably shouldn't be travelling alone. 

The airline isn't going to rearrange the world to make you happy any more than they can stop the plane to let off someone with a flying phobia who freaks out during takeoff.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Slartibartfast on June 21, 2013, 12:31:47 AM
Funny thing about invisible disabilities - they're invisible!  Which means it's completely unreasonable to expect airline staff to change the way they do things simply on your say-so - they have no way to sort out the people with invisible disabilities from the special snowflakes from the neurotypical travelers who are just stressed that something is going wrong.  It's not rude to ask (politely) if accommodations can be made, of course, but it is rude to demand them, and it's not rude for the airline to say no.  They're not obligated to take time explaining why their rules are the way they are while you're standing there keeping them from their other tasks.

That said, I do sympathize with the man - getting stuck overnight is no fun, and neither is losing your luggage (even temporarily).  If predictable hiccups in your travel schedule mean you *need* special accommodations above and beyond what's already available though, you may have to accept that your disability is the limiting factor, not the airline.  Change your travel plans to fit with your disability - travel with a partner for assistance, call ahead and find out what contingency plans should be in case of problems, check your bags instead of carrying them on so you don't have to deal with them at the gate, etc.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: GSNW on June 21, 2013, 01:22:22 AM
The writer of this article has expectations/hopes that are completely out of line.  One thing about the autism spectrum is that most professionals are actually referring to it as a "cube" these days... meaning that two individuals with the same disability can have completely different triggers or issues.  It's not a linear issue.  Having someone around that is trained to deal with individuals with autism does not in any way guarantee that this one person's issues can be adequately addressed.  Aside from that fact, agreed with PPs who state that someone likely to have a meltdown over delays/surprises should not be traveling alone. 

I honestly found parts of the article to be very snarky and entitled.  "So much for the friendly skies."  Really?  Because something unforeseen happened and it wasn't dealt with in exactly the way you find most helpful, airlines are now unfriendly and unwilling to work with individuals with disabilities? 

There are MANY people out there who would not be able to differentiate between an adult with autism having a meltdown and an overly insistent, loud, or aggressive passenger demanding an explanation.  That is not the fault of the airline nor is it their responsibility to provide someone who does understand. 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Elfmama on June 21, 2013, 01:54:26 AM

I don't understand how his suggestions of "one staff person in each airport trained in accommodating the individual with autism, or perhaps a quiet, secluded area for persons who are in sensory overload, or additional information in writing that would be more tangible" would have improved either of the described situations.
And many airports are HUGE.  Concourse A may be a mile or more from Concourse D.  That's the reason that Atlanta has a train that takes you from one concourse to another.  Having  "one staff person in each airport trained in accommodating the individual with autism" just wouldn't work very well, especially if they're needed in multiple concourses at once. 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: blarg314 on June 21, 2013, 03:43:09 AM


"So much for the friendly skies." 

This guy doesn't fly much, does he? The thought that someone would expect air travel these days to be stress free and friendly boggle my mind. Generally, it's tiring, stressful, and full of seemingly random  delays, and an ever changing gauntlet of pointless things you have to do.

And, given current security issues and airport practices, someone over the age of about ten having a melt down or throwing a tantrum (which can be pretty hard to distinguish) is likely to result in security intervention. Bothering the pilot with luggage issues and reboarding the plane to confront the attendant?  Yeah, he's lucky he didn't spend the night in jail.

But he's right - learning to work with people with Aspergers (or other issues like anxiety, fear of flying or claustrophobia) is *not* high on the priority list for cash strapped airlines. They can deal with simple physical requests, like needing a wheelchair to get to your boarding gate, or possibly serious health concerns (like not serving peanuts when an allergic person is on board). Even then, if you don't contact the appropriate people in advance you can be out of luck.

But airlines and airports simply do not provide counselling services and trained personal assistants for people with behavioural or  psychological issues that makes travelling difficult. What if he had a meltdown in flight because the plane was late, and the flight attendants were too busy to devote time to reassuring him and figuring out what he wanted? 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Lady Snowdon on June 21, 2013, 05:51:14 AM
I had an issue with the end of the article.  The "so much for the friendly skies" and "we're all on our own, as usual" comments make me think that this guy possibly has inflated expectation for society as a whole regarding managing and accommodating his disability. 

His suggestions for what airlines can do seem pretty impossible for the airlines to do.  If you assume that an airline operates on three shifts, that means you need three people trained to deal with autistic people.  That may result in them needing to be gone for a period of time while training, which the airline would need to cover.  It may result in needing to pay these people more, for their increased specialization and knowledge.  It would almost certainly require reshuffling everyone's shifts around to make sure that one person is on each shift.  An airline is going to look at all that time and cost required, and probably decide that it's not viable.

In addition to all that, his suggestion of a quiet place for people in sensory overload should more properly be directed to the commission or group that manages the airport itself.  Airlines lease space from the airport - they don't get to just commandeer more space to create something without having to get it approved by the airport itself. 

I think it would be to everyone's benefit if we could remember that none of us are mind-readers and a clear explanation of what you are looking for always helps the conversation go the way you want it to.  It may not get you what you want, but at least you could feel like you'd been heard.  I used to work at an airline (as a gate agent) and one day a lady waiting for a flight kept asking me about various places in Mexico and how I would get there.  It was phrased as a personal conversation, so I was pretty confused why she kept asking me when I was trying to work.  She finally, after about 10 minutes, came out and said she wanted to know if my airline flew to these cities and what the schedule was.  Then I could direct her to the correct place for that info.  If she'd done that ten minutes earlier, I think both of us would have been happier!
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: camlan on June 21, 2013, 07:18:38 AM
What stood out to me was that when the writer finally said

Quote
I have autism (she never would’ve understood ‘Asperger’s’), and I really need your help to understand my options.”

he got the help he needed, in a way that relieved his anxiety.

I realize that there are issues with being "labeled" with a disability. That people with disabilities want to be seen first as a person, and only second as having a disability.

But when you need something done differently because of your disability, you can't expect other people to be mind readers. A wheelchair, a pair of crutches, a guide dog, a hearing aid--all these signal that the person using them might need an accommodation. And the accommodations that might be required are, to some extent, fairly obvious. Invisible disabilities have no signal. The accommodations necessary are not as clear.

If a person with an invisible disability needs an accommodation, they need to speak up and ask for the specific accommodation they need. They need to alert someone who can help them as to the nature of their disability and what is required to accommodate it. If they are unable to do this, they need either travel with an aide or have a pre-printed card that they can hand to someone.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Eden on June 21, 2013, 08:36:48 AM
I think with the first scenario of his flight being delayed we kind of got to what he wants, but he wasn't very good about explaining it. It sounded to me like he might not want special treatment in the sense of them making sure he doesn't miss scheduled flights (welcome to air travel, buddy), but rather for them to understand he may need a little extra help in understanding/processing what his options are. I think the onus is on him to come out with that from the get-go. "I understand scheduling delays happen. I'm autistic and things like this can be very overwhelming to me. Would you please help me to understand what my best option is?"

As far as the luggage thing, that was just an example of miscommunication or misinformation. His Aspergers really has nothing to do with it.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: exitzero on June 21, 2013, 08:45:42 AM
I think he should have made arrangements before he booked his flight. Airline staff are NOT mind readers. They can't be expected to spot someone with autism - could you imagine the trouble they could get into IDing the wrong person. He needs to be proactive. I realize that he has a communication problem - maybe a card explaining is difficulty communicating and how people can help him would work.

Also after years of traveling with my Dad, who never had a flight go off without a hitch, I can't imagine traveling with layovers and not having a back up plan of what to do when we get stranded in X.

(Seriously Dad would go over our flights and say Ok,  We have a 5 hour layover in Boston, when we get stranded, we will X, Y, Z. Actually making a connection was a pleasant surprise- but it meant our luggage probably got shipped back to Houston. )


I alert the airlines about my peanut allergy and that I'm carrying an epi (looks like a tube with "mystery" liquid in it when it is in its case). I'm glad I did Air Canada suggested that along with the Rx info on the case, I might want a note from my doctor on stationary explaining why I had to have it on the plane. That was a lifesaver when a TSA agent insisted I had to check it because there were no bees on planes.  ::)  Fortunately his supervisor had a little more common sense. 

Another time, after being rerouted, delayed, and having a full on massive airplane headache from the pressure changes I was given some forms to read to get a voucher for the hotel. I told the representative - I am dyslexic and have a massive headache I can't read these the letters are doing flip flops across the page. She laughed and read the information to me.

I think people are willing to help. The difference between being seen as a SS and getting help is honesty. Give me accommodation Sounds SS. I have x (condition/problem), can you help me by accommodation sounds reasonable.

Not just with staff. You know those monitors with gate information on them in the airports. Many have dark background with light letters - or at least I'm told they are letters they look like ants doing a marching band routine to me. I can't tell you how many times I've asked a fellow traveler, "Sorry but I'm dyslexic and can't read that screen because of the color contrast does it say were Air Canada flight XYZ is departing. I can tell you that every time I ask I get a polite response - and often a quick question about why colors are the problem.
For all that is holy, please tell me that there is not a grown professional person who may have my safety in their hands who could be this stupid. The next time I fly, I won't sleep for a week for the worrying.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Lynnv on June 21, 2013, 08:48:23 AM
Air travel is stressful at the best of times.  And he seems to expect to have someone able to sit down and explain every little detail to him, while not missing his flight.  It is not only an unrealistic expectation, it is also impossible.  In the first case, his statement that he was "expressing restrained anxiety" sounds to me like code words for having a full-blown meltdown. 

I can only imagine how frustrating it is to travel when stress and unexpected events exacerbate an existing problem.  But his expectations that air travel be completely predictable and stress-free for him are, IMO, way out of line.

His luggage going to baggage claim is hardly the issue me makes it out to be.  He is really lucky that he didn't get arrested.  You cannot reenter the jetway after you leave it. 

His article said that he asked if his bag could be left at the jetway for a gate-check.  The flight attendant CORRECTLY told him "yes."  On smaller planes, gate-checked bags are often picked up at the jetway.  He presumed (per his article) that it was "customary" to pick up bags plane-side.  But that is NOT the case.  Especially on larger planes, gate-checked bags usually get checked through to your final destination. 

It sounds to me like he assumed the first possibility and was upset when it was actually the second.  Telling a passenger to leave a gate-checked back in the jetway is NOT an error.  Every flight I have been on recently has had multiple announcements telling people where gate-checked bags could be picked up.  Even if this one somehow didn't, he made an unwarranted assumption that the gate-checked bag would be picked up plane-side.  Then was upset when his assumption was wrong.  Which is fine.  Upset is not an issue and if his experience said baggage is picked up plane-side I can understand him being annoyed that he was wrong.  But he was wrong, not the airline or the FA (based on his description of events).  Behaving in the fashion that he did about his bags going to baggage claim was way out of line, IMO.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: kherbert05 on June 21, 2013, 09:00:49 AM
I think he should have made arrangements before he booked his flight. Airline staff are NOT mind readers. They can't be expected to spot someone with autism - could you imagine the trouble they could get into IDing the wrong person. He needs to be proactive. I realize that he has a communication problem - maybe a card explaining is difficulty communicating and how people can help him would work.

Also after years of traveling with my Dad, who never had a flight go off without a hitch, I can't imagine traveling with layovers and not having a back up plan of what to do when we get stranded in X.

(Seriously Dad would go over our flights and say Ok,  We have a 5 hour layover in Boston, when we get stranded, we will X, Y, Z. Actually making a connection was a pleasant surprise- but it meant our luggage probably got shipped back to Houston. )


I alert the airlines about my peanut allergy and that I'm carrying an epi (looks like a tube with "mystery" liquid in it when it is in its case). I'm glad I did Air Canada suggested that along with the Rx info on the case, I might want a note from my doctor on stationary explaining why I had to have it on the plane. That was a lifesaver when a TSA agent insisted I had to check it because there were no bees on planes.  ::)  Fortunately his supervisor had a little more common sense. 

Another time, after being rerouted, delayed, and having a full on massive airplane headache from the pressure changes I was given some forms to read to get a voucher for the hotel. I told the representative - I am dyslexic and have a massive headache I can't read these the letters are doing flip flops across the page. She laughed and read the information to me.

I think people are willing to help. The difference between being seen as a SS and getting help is honesty. Give me accommodation Sounds SS. I have x (condition/problem), can you help me by accommodation sounds reasonable.

Not just with staff. You know those monitors with gate information on them in the airports. Many have dark background with light letters - or at least I'm told they are letters they look like ants doing a marching band routine to me. I can't tell you how many times I've asked a fellow traveler, "Sorry but I'm dyslexic and can't read that screen because of the color contrast does it say were Air Canada flight XYZ is departing. I can tell you that every time I ask I get a polite response - and often a quick question about why colors are the problem.
For all that is holy, please tell me that there is not a grown professional person who may have my safety in their hands who could be this stupid. The next time I fly, I won't sleep for a week for the worrying.
It wasn't the first or last time I've run into epi pens are for insect stings only mind set. People are most familiar with them being used for stings and bites, from TV and Movies. Not so much for food allergies.

It is changing now that TV shows and Movies are using peanut allergy for a type of murder/torture. So now Micheal Westen puts peanuts in the bad guy's food, hand cuffs him to a table, and withholds the epi till the man gives up the needed info. THen he slams the epi in the leg, leaves it sticking out (the needle is pretty short can't really do that), and calls 911.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: z_squared82 on June 21, 2013, 10:09:10 AM
I agree it’s not an etiquette issue, but hopefully this if helpful.

OP, if it makes you feel better, you can call up your airline’s reservation hotline in advance and they can put a note on the reservation that one the passengers has a disability (you will NOT be expected to divulge the name of said disability) and may need extra time/special seating/what have you. (Seriously, we were specifically trained not to ask, "What's your disability?" b/c it's invasive. This is usually applicable to service animals. People want to know, "Why do you have a rabbit as a service animal?" b/c we're used to seeing eye dogs, not animals that help with anxiety.)

I used to work for a Major American Airline in reservations, and this is an easy request to accommodate. It allows the gate agent to know ahead of time if there is anyone who requires extra assistance. You can address it with the gate agent when you get there, but if there is something like a hurricane rerouting thousands of passengers, they can get frazzled trying to deal with this at the last minute.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: RebeccainGA on June 21, 2013, 10:24:01 AM
Honestly, this guy reminds me of the worst of the disabled community - that navel-gazing, self absorbed (and thankfully small) group that thinks that the whole world needs to stop because they have a disability. If he's an Aspie (and having gone to HS with many, and still being friends with several, I'm fairly familiar with the type) then he's high functioning - and if he is, he needs to use his words like a grownup, not pout and act crazed because things didn't go the way he wanted them to (and I bet that FA was terrified when he came back on the plane to, in his words, confront her).

There are people out there with real, serious disabilities that restrict every part of their daily life. I'm married to someone whose time in that condition was brief, but we still have daily reminders of how far she's got to go before 'normal'. Aspergers is not one of those disabilities. AUTISM is. Aspergers can make some aspects of their life more challenging, but just like the blind person who learns Braille or the deaf person who learns to lipread, you learn strategies to cope. You don't expect that everyone will stop the world and let you calm down.

I get panic attacks in crowds. When I was faced with a very crowded, hot, airless room for a two day training class at work, did I pitch a fit because the room wasn't to my expectations? No, I sat near a door, as far away as I could from people, and absented myself as soon as breaks were called so I could decompress.

I think this guy wants to make a buck as a consultant. Really. I'm sure that's how he came off to the airlines, too.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: perpetua on June 21, 2013, 10:31:22 AM

There are people out there with real, serious disabilities that restrict every part of their daily life. I'm married to someone whose time in that condition was brief, but we still have daily reminders of how far she's got to go before 'normal'. Aspergers is not one of those disabilities. AUTISM is.

That's very misinformed and extremely dismissive. Aspergers can, and does, greatly affect the lives of some of those who have it. It is a spectrum. Some are affected in a greater way than others, by its very nature. Unless you personally know every person in the world with Aspergers and every way in which they are affected, that is a statement that you simply can not make.

That said, I don't agree with the guy.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: jaxsue on June 21, 2013, 11:15:48 AM
Honestly, this guy reminds me of the worst of the disabled community - that navel-gazing, self absorbed (and thankfully small) group that thinks that the whole world needs to stop because they have a disability. If he's an Aspie (and having gone to HS with many, and still being friends with several, I'm fairly familiar with the type) then he's high functioning - and if he is, he needs to use his words like a grownup, not pout and act crazed because things didn't go the way he wanted them to (and I bet that FA was terrified when he came back on the plane to, in his words, confront her).

There are people out there with real, serious disabilities that restrict every part of their daily life. I'm married to someone whose time in that condition was brief, but we still have daily reminders of how far she's got to go before 'normal'. Aspergers is not one of those disabilities. AUTISM is. Aspergers can make some aspects of their life more challenging, but just like the blind person who learns Braille or the deaf person who learns to lipread, you learn strategies to cope. You don't expect that everyone will stop the world and let you calm down.

I get panic attacks in crowds. When I was faced with a very crowded, hot, airless room for a two day training class at work, did I pitch a fit because the room wasn't to my expectations? No, I sat near a door, as far away as I could from people, and absented myself as soon as breaks were called so I could decompress.

I think this guy wants to make a buck as a consultant. Really. I'm sure that's how he came off to the airlines, too.

ITA with your post. I have a son with autism. After 25 yrs with my son, I am very well acquainted with that community. The blog author comes across as quite SS, IMHO. No one is a mind reader. And, no, this man is not a victim.

The issues he dealt with are so common, and no one's picking on him. Nor can they, after dealing with 1000s of people a day, pick up on his distress. Flying is stressful at the best of times!

Like PP's, I believe that this gentleman travel with a companion, someone who can help make the entire process more bearable.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: mime on June 21, 2013, 11:54:39 AM
Going against the grain for a moment here...

I can imagine a time when people would have suggested that 'if she can't descend four steps to the jetway, then she just shouldn't be flying.' or 'if he can't get around in here without an animal's help, then he should find a different way to get across the country, or just not even try.' I appreciate that I live in a place where we have chosen to take measures to enable as many people as possible to live independently.

I can understand why those with invisible disabilities feel like they're not heard because their condition is not obvious to the naked eye.

That said, I've also watched with frustration when I've seen some small business or community renovation projects shut down completely because they couldn't afford to install an elevator to accomodate everyone (in one case, the facility didn't even have electricity). Maybe as a whole, we're still trying to find a good balance.

I think there are some things that could reasonably be done for invisible disabilities, or those of a psychological rather than physical nature. If familiarity reduces anxiety, maybe an onsite airport orientation tour or class? Reading materials about 'what to expect' and 'what to do if there's a problem'? (note: I'm speaking from a point of view with absolutely no expertise or education, but a few friends with Asperger's and similar situations who would likely benefit from these ideas).

I sure don't absolve the article writer, though! He made mistakes. If he needs special accomodations, then he needs to 'out' himself (as he put it) immediately. In the case of the delayed flight he wasn't upfront about his condition of magnified-stress and the need for very concrete communication due to his Asperger's... how was the attendant supposed to know? In the case of the checked baggage, the staff had no clue about his Asperger's, so their logical conclusion to his being 'very upset' and 're-boarding the plane to confront the flight attendant' would be that he's a threat, and they reacted accordingly by bringing in reinforcements. If he had been upfront from the start,  suspect he would have had a better experience.

We don't even know how much more accomodating the staff would have been because the article writer never asked for the accomodation he needed; he just expected them to know.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Hillia on June 21, 2013, 12:05:16 PM
I keep thinking of Carol Gotbaum.  In 2007 Ms. Gotbaum was traveling from Phoenix to Tucson to enter a rehab facility.  She was emotionally fragile, and in addition to her substance abuse issues, had attempted suicide twice in the past year.  She was travelling unaccompanied.

At the airport, she consumed enough alcohol to raise her blood alcohol to .24 (3x the legal limit for driving).  She arrived at the gate late and was denied boarding as the plane was about to take off.  She became hysterical, screaming, running around, flailing her arms and finally throwing her PDA at the gate agent.  Airport police were called and she was handcuffed and taken to a holding area, where she was handcuffed to a bench as she continued to be combative.  About 10 minutes after being left alone, she was found dead, having apparently managed to pull the handcuffs over her head but strangling herself in the process.

Her family sued, because the police should have known somehow that she was suffering from mental illness and needed special handling.  They never addressed the issue of why she was travelling alone if she was so fragile and needed special care.

The letter writer's situation is nowhere near as dramatic, but again, how are overworked, harried airport staff supposed to distinguish someone who has a legitimate need for an accommodation from someone who's just throwing a hissy fit?
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Winterlight on June 21, 2013, 12:18:38 PM

I don't understand how his suggestions of "one staff person in each airport trained in accommodating the individual with autism, or perhaps a quiet, secluded area for persons who are in sensory overload, or additional information in writing that would be more tangible" would have improved either of the described situations.
And many airports are HUGE.  Concourse A may be a mile or more from Concourse D.  That's the reason that Atlanta has a train that takes you from one concourse to another.  Having  "one staff person in each airport trained in accommodating the individual with autism" just wouldn't work very well, especially if they're needed in multiple concourses at once.

And that quiet, secluded area isn't going to be of much use somewhere like Seattle if it's in the N Gate section and the passenger is in S. That's two trains and a lot of walking, which is not really reasonable when the person is already overloaded.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Slartibartfast on June 21, 2013, 12:24:42 PM

I don't understand how his suggestions of "one staff person in each airport trained in accommodating the individual with autism, or perhaps a quiet, secluded area for persons who are in sensory overload, or additional information in writing that would be more tangible" would have improved either of the described situations.
And many airports are HUGE.  Concourse A may be a mile or more from Concourse D.  That's the reason that Atlanta has a train that takes you from one concourse to another.  Having  "one staff person in each airport trained in accommodating the individual with autism" just wouldn't work very well, especially if they're needed in multiple concourses at once.

And that quiet, secluded area isn't going to be of much use somewhere like Seattle if it's in the N Gate section and the passenger is in S. That's two trains and a lot of walking, which is not really reasonable when the person is already overloaded.

At least some airports DO have a quiet, secluded area - the chapel.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: WillyNilly on June 21, 2013, 12:26:45 PM
I also don't see how one - even if it was somehow convenient to all - quite room would help if there are say two people having meltdowns. One might be in a stage of meltdown where they are not being quiet but need to go to the quiet room to settle down, but them going into the room mid-meltdown would now render the room no longer quiet thus perhaps setting off the person who is in there just having quieted them-self.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: snowdragon on June 21, 2013, 12:32:15 PM
Everyone in the world wants to be accommodated these days - and I see what this guy is asking no differently than I see some of the other accommodations we male for other groups. If we are willing to make accommodations for other situations....play places for kids in many airports, allergen or scent free spaces, someone to assist those who need help with luggage, or unaccompanied minors or even translators for the deaf or someone to aide the blind,,then we need to be willing to provide for help for folks on the Autism spectrum - at this point I am not sure that there is that assistance for them.
   yes, they need to be willing to ask, but we also need to realize that they might not realize that part of being on the autism spectrum is communication related and the person might not realize the issues, until the problem occurs. And they might not realize that the situation is hard for everyone - and blame it solely on their disability. 

At least some airports DO have a quiet, secluded area - the chapel.
   I never even knew there was a chapel in every airport..thanks!
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Onyx_TKD on June 21, 2013, 01:12:42 PM
Everyone in the world wants to be accommodated these days - and I see what this guy is asking no differently than I see some of the other accommodations we male for other groups. If we are willing to make accommodations for other situations....play places for kids in many airports, allergen or scent free spaces, someone to assist those who need help with luggage, or unaccompanied minors or even translators for the deaf or someone to aide the blind,,then we need to be willing to provide for help for folks on the Autism spectrum - at this point I am not sure that there is that assistance for them.
   yes, they need to be willing to ask, but we also need to realize that they might not realize that part of being on the autism spectrum is communication related and the person might not realize the issues, until the problem occurs. And they might not realize that the situation is hard for everyone - and blame it solely on their disability. 

At least some airports DO have a quiet, secluded area - the chapel.
   I never even knew there was a chapel in every airport..thanks!

I don't have a problem with the idea of accommodations to help people on the autism spectrum. However, if airlines are required or pressured to make accommodations, there should be some rationale for how the accommodation will actually help. The author has given no indication about how the suggested accommodations would have improved the situations he describes. It sounds like the employees were telling him how to deal with each situation (ride the cart to his gate, pick up his bag at baggage claim). If written instructions would have helped, they probably could have written them down for him if he asked. If quiet rooms and autism-accommodation staff were available, they still would not have known he needed them unless he asked (and he would still have had to deal with the original problems of a missed connection and having his bag sent to the wrong place). It's very unfortunate that his disability makes it hard to communicate his needs, but that doesn't enable the airline staff to read his mind. It means that he needs to proactively figure out how to satisfy and/or communicate his needs when situations like this occur.

He doesn't mention ever asking what accommodations (if any) the airline is already prepared to make for people in his situation. Perhaps the same staff who accompany minors and people with physical disabilities would be available to escort him from one connection to the other and help him handle any unforeseen delays if he asked for that help. It would probably be a lot easier and cheaper for them than the accommodations he suggests, and seems more likely to fix the actual problems he was describing. But did he ever ask? He only describes getting upset that the staff didn't know how to accommodate him without being asked and calling the airlines to tell them what they should do for people with autism, without providing evidence that it would actually help.

Beyond standard, required accommodations like accessible parking and restroom stalls, ramps, etc., don't most people needing accommodations need to be proactive about them? The airline might refrain from serving peanuts on a flight where someone is deathly allergic, but they have to tell the airline it's a problem, right? Not just show up and expect them to know that they need to ban peanuts today. You can bring your service dog on the plane, but you can't just show up with a dog without warning and expect the staff to be ready to accommodate you, right? If you need someone to help you in the airport because of a physical disability, etc., you have to ask for that assistance, right?
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: RebeccainGA on June 21, 2013, 01:28:09 PM
Everyone in the world wants to be accommodated these days - and I see what this guy is asking no differently than I see some of the other accommodations we male for other groups. If we are willing to make accommodations for other situations....play places for kids in many airports, allergen or scent free spaces, someone to assist those who need help with luggage, or unaccompanied minors or even translators for the deaf or someone to aide the blind,,then we need to be willing to provide for help for folks on the Autism spectrum - at this point I am not sure that there is that assistance for them.
   yes, they need to be willing to ask, but we also need to realize that they might not realize that part of being on the autism spectrum is communication related and the person might not realize the issues, until the problem occurs. And they might not realize that the situation is hard for everyone - and blame it solely on their disability. 

At least some airports DO have a quiet, secluded area - the chapel.
   I never even knew there was a chapel in every airport..thanks!

I don't have a problem with the idea of accommodations to help people on the autism spectrum. However, if airlines are required or pressured to make accommodations, there should be some rationale for how the accommodation will actually help. The author has given no indication about how the suggested accommodations would have improved the situations he describes. It sounds like the employees were telling him how to deal with each situation (ride the cart to his gate, pick up his bag at baggage claim). If written instructions would have helped, they probably could have written them down for him if he asked. If quiet rooms and autism-accommodation staff were available, they still would not have known he needed them unless he asked (and he would still have had to deal with the original problems of a missed connection and having his bag sent to the wrong place). It's very unfortunate that his disability makes it hard to communicate his needs, but that doesn't enable the airline staff to read his mind. It means that he needs to proactively figure out how to satisfy and/or communicate his needs when situations like this occur.

He doesn't mention ever asking what accommodations (if any) the airline is already prepared to make for people in his situation. Perhaps the same staff who accompany minors and people with physical disabilities would be available to escort him from one connection to the other and help him handle any unforeseen delays if he asked for that help. It would probably be a lot easier and cheaper for them than the accommodations he suggests, and seems more likely to fix the actual problems he was describing. But did he ever ask? He only describes getting upset that the staff didn't know how to accommodate him without being asked and calling the airlines to tell them what they should do for people with autism, without providing evidence that it would actually help.

Beyond standard, required accommodations like accessible parking and restroom stalls, ramps, etc., don't most people needing accommodations need to be proactive about them? The airline might refrain from serving peanuts on a flight where someone is deathly allergic, but they have to tell the airline it's a problem, right? Not just show up and expect them to know that they need to ban peanuts today. You can bring your service dog on the plane, but you can't just show up with a dog without warning and expect the staff to be ready to accommodate you, right? If you need someone to help you in the airport because of a physical disability, etc., you have to ask for that assistance, right?

ITA, and this was my point as well. Someone in a wheelchair is going to need a ramp, minimum. Those can't be conjured up, so they are in place already, but that's one of the few things disabled people (or anyone needing something different from typical) don't have to ask for. Someone with a severe allergy will need to have that allergen excluded, if possible (and really, as prevalent as peanuts are on flights, both provided by the airline and in packaged snacks that people bring on board, I don't know how any but the mildest allergy wouldn't be set off just walking in the airport). If you need an escort because of vision issues, you have to prearrange it. If you want something as simple as a vegetarian or a kosher meal you have to ask a week in advance, for pete's sake!

Just like those of us that are 'invisible minorities' that have to fight for visibility (and yes, even though I've been an openly gay woman for almost 20 years now, I still get asked which gay boy I'm friends with when I'm in a club, assuming I'm just there as a straight friend), if you have something that is important that needs to be communicated, you speak up. Use your words.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Dragonflymom on June 21, 2013, 01:32:19 PM
Thank you all.  So many great insights!

What I try to do for my daughter is try to manage things to minimize meltdowns - try to have as few connecting flights as possible, always have snacks since hunger triggers meltdowns, try to find calming distracting things at the airport (indoor gardens, sculpture exhibits, sometimes airports will have paintings or art displays) and take her to those to get her in a better frame of mind.  And then it pretty much keeps the impact of her issues on other people non existent, which is where I think the etiquette issue comes in.  And it keeps her happier and calmer too, so it's win-win.

I didn't know I could get a card to help get accommodations for her if needed, so that's really good to know.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: EllenS on June 21, 2013, 02:02:46 PM
I think a large part of the blogger's frustration & difficulty was that he wanted accomodations made *without asking for them*.  This reluctance to ask for help may be part of his processing issues, but the fact remains that if you want to "pass" and not "out yourself", (his words), then you have to be able to cope with all the same things that typically-processing people cope with.

In every example he cited, a "fixed" or facility based accomodation would be useless - what he was having difficulty with, was a changing situation where he needed guidance.  If you need human guidance, you have to signal in some way that you need help.  I also notice that when he did explain his needs, it would seem the staff were in fact helpful.

It would have been useful for him to prearrange some help, but the card would probably work too.  I think he just wanted something that is impossible.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: TurtleDove on June 21, 2013, 02:11:32 PM
I think the fact that this person has Aspergers is second to the fact that he is a Special Snowflake. I think he did the autism community a major disservice.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: NyaChan on June 21, 2013, 03:21:49 PM
I think it was unfair of him to criticize what happened at the airport when he had given the airlines no notice of his needing accommodation.  The one time he actually identified to an employee that he had a need, he was given help.  People shouldn't be labeled unhelpful just because they can't read your mind.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: rashea on June 24, 2013, 10:10:35 AM
Ok, here goes. First, ADA doesn't apply to air travel, so this guy is pretty uninformed. You need to look at the Air Carriers Access Act for air travel rules. Second, just so people know, if you're using a wheelchair or can't do stairs I highly recommend calling your airline and making sure you're on a flight with a boarding ramp. They do still use stairs on the tarmac for some smaller flights, and it's no fun discovering that they can't accommodate you. Third, I found it hilarious that he claimed that airlines and airports have accommodating physical disabilities down. I've had my chair broken (twice) and lost (once), I've had TSA not know how to pat me down, and try to insist I go through the metal detector (I don't fit, and well, duh, it's going to beep).

But, sorry, I feel for him, but he made no preparations (calling ahead, making cards asking for discrete help). Even if they followed his advice and had a person who specialized in helping people with autism and that person was somehow able to be in every place at once, he'd still have to ask for someone to summon them.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: bopper on June 24, 2013, 04:05:19 PM
DisneyWorld is super accomodating for people with disabilities, including invisible disabilities.
But what they require is if you need an accomodation for an invisible disability you talk to Guest Services and tell them about your needs..not your diagnosis, but your needs.  Then they give you a card that explains those needs to other "Cast Members"  So someone might need to wait in a  shaded area.  Someone else may need closed captioning. Someone else may be autistic and may need to wait some place away from others.  But you do have to tell them what you need to be accomodated. Unless you are in a wheel chair, they won't guess.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: blarg314 on June 24, 2013, 08:02:57 PM

It also occurs to me that there a lot of things this guy could have done proactively, knowing about his issues.

He could have printed out maps of the terminal so he could see exactly where to go for transfers, even if his gate was changed. He could have role played various scenarios with a friend or family member, so he had a plan if things went wrong.  Like, 'what to do if your plane is delayed and you miss your connection', or 'what to do if your luggage is lost'. He could have gone over a list of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour with someone, like 'you never enter or exit a plane without being explicitly told to do so', 'never bother the pilot or air marshals unless it's a matter of immediate security', 'don't go into areas marked private under any circumstances', and 'don't make a fuss with security guards or immigrations officials even if you're upset, and don't make jokes about the security process'.

But what he did was apparently expect that everything would go perfectly, and if it didn't, the airline staff would psychically know exactly what he needed, and provide specialized services tailored to his particular manifestation of the disability without needing to be asked.

As an aside - even with physical disabilities, there are limits to what airlines will do. They will provide transportation through the airport and assistance boarding, and will transport equipment like a wheelchair *with advanced arrangements*. If you don't phone in advance, they might not have a wheelchair available. Or you might discover that the small regional flight doesn't have room for both passengers and your motorized wheelchair.

And there are lot of things they won't do, even if they're necessary and related to a physical disability. If you need medication administered, or help with bodily functions, it's up to you to bring someone along who can do it for you, or manage on your own.

Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Otterpop on June 25, 2013, 12:38:58 AM
OP I'm glad you started this thread.  My daughter has Asperger's and is traveling with her school band to Europe next summer.  I decided to bite the bullet and pay for myself to go as her "shadow" adult, though she thinks she can do it all on her own (uh...7 countries in 16 days, I don't think so...)

It's nice to know about that little card to print out and keep with us, also it's nice to hear all of the suggestions put forth.  To those who think high functioning Asperger's have no issues let me say black and white, literal thinking, ADD and ADHD, missing social cues and the absolute NEED to have everything go as planned and be predictable are real problems.  Their stress can then become problematic for everyone around them (my DD starts complaining incessantly under her breath, it becomes increasingly audible.  When I admonish her she starts "grrrrrrrrrring" in her throat, people notice - stressful ::)).  Proper planning helps alleviate problems but doesn't prevent all.  It's a delightful/stressful life most of the time.

No the airline should not be required to accommodate everyone, but employees should be more empathetic once a condition has been identified.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: hannahmollysmom on June 25, 2013, 01:07:41 AM
As I've mentioned before, I work at an airport. I'm in communications, which means I monitor security cameras, alarms, dispatch police, medical, and fire, as well as customer service and other things.

Before I get into my post, I just wanted to mention to those with autistic children, who plan to travel, check with your airport. We have a program at ours for autistic children and their parents who are planning to travel. The family comes to the airport and is given a tour and things are explained.  They practice going through security, and actually going onto a plane and sit in a seat and then the plane is explained. It has been very successful. (Kudo's to Southwest as they are the airline that works with the program).

Our airport is small. We service about 3 million a year, so you can imagine larger airports. If you have a disability that isn't obvious, you need to inform people, and people will help.

I've had to dispatch police many times to take care of someone who is headed to rehab, alone, and decides to tie one on before heading there, and then flips out. How is the person checking them in supposed to know that? The police here only restrain if the person is violent. In most cases, they work hard to contact someone to come pick them up, and stay with them until someone does.

The ones that get me angry, are the people who put their elderly parents on planes who have Alzheimer's, alone! Then panic when the person doesn't get to their destination. They blame the airline for losing them. Did they inform the airline when they checked them in? No. But, I'm the one who gets the call. Airlines cannot give out information on passengers, due to privacy laws. Even if you say you are the daughter, on the phone, what proof do you have. So I have to call the LEO to talk to the airlines to try and locate these passengers, while being yelled at by the adult children.

I could go on, but wont'. I see this guy as a SS and do not find fault with the airlines at all for his issues.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Twik on June 25, 2013, 10:07:56 PM
I think that perhaps the writer is assuming "air travel is difficult for me, because I'm Asperger's," when the real truth is "air travel is difficult".

Yes, if you're easily thrown off by changing schedules, or delays, or complete breakdown in plans such as being stranded overnight, it's stressful, but this is part of the reality of air travel. I agree with a previous poster that perhaps some role-playing, or at least contingency planning, would help this flyer more than simply expecting staff to recognize people with hidden disabilities without the passengers actually identifying their issues.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: m2kbug on June 26, 2013, 02:50:15 AM
I've seen "special snowflake" come up a few times, and I don't know that I really see that.  I imagine a lot of this behavior was completely out of his control at the time the stress occurred.  He is understanding of his disability otherwise, which means he really could take some measures in advance just in case he needs it and just in case he reaches a point that he goes off in a completely different direction and loses control.  I think a printed card would be a really good idea.  Not everyone is going to know how to work with and redirect an Asperger or autistic person, and a print-up could really come in handy, I think, in addition to whatever notes could be made available when booking the flight so that the airline workers can be aware of any potential problems.

Hannahmolleysmom mentions the level of assistance that is provided for people, and the thing that gets in her craw is putting elderly, Alzheimer parents on the plane alone with no warning.  Would some preplanning be useful here?  Is this something that can be managed the same way as managing sending a minor child alone?  Would this type of assistance be beneficial for an Aspie?  It just seems some warning in advance could make all the difference.  Once the Aspie hits certain stress levels, they may have zero control on their thinking pattern or their behavior, and an outside source to help redirect could prove useful...especially with a little preplanning. 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Onyx_TKD on June 26, 2013, 03:19:08 AM
I've seen "special snowflake" come up a few times, and I don't know that I really see that.  I imagine a lot of this behavior was completely out of his control at the time the stress occurred.  He is understanding of his disability otherwise, which means he really could take some measures in advance just in case he needs it and just in case he reaches a point that he goes off in a completely different direction and loses control. I think a printed card would be a really good idea.  Not everyone is going to know how to work with and redirect an Asperger or autistic person, and a print-up could really come in handy, I think, in addition to whatever notes could be made available when booking the flight so that the airline workers can be aware of any potential problems.

Hannahmolleysmom mentions the level of assistance that is provided for people, and the thing that gets in her craw is putting elderly, Alzheimer parents on the plane alone with no warning.  Would some preplanning be useful here?  Is this something that can be managed the same way as managing sending a minor child alone?  Would this type of assistance be beneficial for an Aspie?  It just seems some warning in advance could make all the difference.  Once the Aspie hits certain stress levels, they may have zero control on their thinking pattern or their behavior, and an outside source to help redirect could prove useful...especially with a little preplanning.

His actions at the time of the incidents may have been driven by his stress. However, looking back on these incidents at a time when he is not under stress, he still blames the airlines for all of his difficulties. There are indeed measures he could take to try to avoid this in the future, but he seems more focused on telling the airlines what they should do differently instead of taking any responsibility for handling his own condition. That is what comes across as special snowflakey IMO.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: m2kbug on June 26, 2013, 05:13:07 AM
I've seen "special snowflake" come up a few times, and I don't know that I really see that.  I imagine a lot of this behavior was completely out of his control at the time the stress occurred.  He is understanding of his disability otherwise, which means he really could take some measures in advance just in case he needs it and just in case he reaches a point that he goes off in a completely different direction and loses control. I think a printed card would be a really good idea.  Not everyone is going to know how to work with and redirect an Asperger or autistic person, and a print-up could really come in handy, I think, in addition to whatever notes could be made available when booking the flight so that the airline workers can be aware of any potential problems.

Hannahmolleysmom mentions the level of assistance that is provided for people, and the thing that gets in her craw is putting elderly, Alzheimer parents on the plane alone with no warning.  Would some preplanning be useful here?  Is this something that can be managed the same way as managing sending a minor child alone?  Would this type of assistance be beneficial for an Aspie?  It just seems some warning in advance could make all the difference.  Once the Aspie hits certain stress levels, they may have zero control on their thinking pattern or their behavior, and an outside source to help redirect could prove useful...especially with a little preplanning.

His actions at the time of the incidents may have been driven by his stress. However, looking back on these incidents at a time when he is not under stress, he still blames the airlines for all of his difficulties. There are indeed measures he could take to try to avoid this in the future, but he seems more focused on telling the airlines what they should do differently instead of taking any responsibility for handling his own condition. That is what comes across as special snowflakey IMO.

This makes sense. You put together a nice explanation over something I was waffling a little bit over. 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: iridaceae on June 26, 2013, 05:45:07 AM
This guy is really not prepared at all to fly. Weather happens. Planes- yes, even with regular maintenance - can have mechanical issues. Planes can change departure times.  He might suddenly find himself whisked out of the concourse along with everyone else because of a bomb threat.  Volcanos erupt and disrupt air traffic.

And all he can think of is "airline employees should KNOW that I need help because I'm autistic and they should KNOW automatically that I'm autistic." He needs to stop leaning on his disability and be proactive.

He reminds me of the college students who would wait until AFTER the first test to go yell at my dad about how he hated them because they didn't have enough time to take the test because they were dyslexic...And had never once told him before that or registered with the university so that he got official notice.

Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: EllenS on June 26, 2013, 12:44:44 PM
One section of the blogger's story has me wondering.  The paragraph about his carryon bag that got checked after he was told it would be brought planeside.    He says that he questioned the pilot (the PILOT?) about the bag, and called the pilot rude for shrugging and walking away.  He then says he "confronted" the flight attendant who instructed him, and was greeted by multiple staff members, including one who might be an air marshal.

I can only imagine what this "confrontation" must have been like to have drawn such a response, and it makes me wonder about the line between "accomodating passengers with disabilities" and enforcing a secure working/flying environment.  I realize that people who are not neurotypical have different reactions to stress, but when you are talking about a grown man having an out-of-control reaction, where does the responsibility fall for appropriate & acceptable public behavior?

You hear stories in the news often about loud, confrontational or unreasonable passengers winding up in handcuffs, or banned from airlines.  I would like to hear people's opinions on balancing the rights and needs of passengers who may have a neurological difference, with the safety requirements of workers and other passengers.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: TurtleDove on June 26, 2013, 02:54:43 PM
I would like to hear people's opinions on balancing the rights and needs of passengers who may have a neurological difference, with the safety requirements of workers and other passengers.

I believe that if behavior is disruptive or dangerous in a "captive situation" like an airport terminal or airplane, it doesn't matter "why" a person is behaving disruptively or dangerously -- the behavior simply needs to be controlled.  I believe that if a person has a known condition that might lead that person to engage in disruptive or dangerous behavior, it is up to that person (and not the airline) to ensure there are measures in place to "protect" the person with the condition. 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: PeterM on June 26, 2013, 02:56:45 PM
This is the bit that gets to me the most:

Quote
In one experience, my delayed flight caused me to nearly miss a connecting flight due to severe weather which would’ve meant I’d have to stay overnight unexpectedly and in a strange place—polar opposite from my plans. I became so exasperated that I felt that the clerk wasn’t listening to my expression of restrained anxiety when she offered me a traveling cart to get me from one gate to another—I can walk, run if I have to, so getting from one gate to another wasn’t the issue! After not hearing the reassuring words I needed to hear, I finally “outed” myself by blurting, “I have autism (she never would’ve understood ‘Asperger’s’), and I really need your help to understand my options.” (By the way, I got home that same night just fine.)

If getting to the gate to meet his connecting flight wasn't the issue, what in the world was? I can certainly understand that being stranded overnight in a strange place is a stressful idea, and that it's even more stressful for some people than others. But the clerk was offering to get him to his next flight on time. He says he didn't need help, that he could make it on his own. Great. Then go do that, and let the clerk who's probably dealing with dozens of irate travelers get back to doing her job. What exactly did he want out of her that she wasn't already attempting to provide, over his objections?

I'm not a big fan of "she never would've understood 'Asperger's'" either. It's a pretty well known term these days, so it sounds like he's insulting the intelligence of the woman who was trying to help him.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: m2kbug on June 26, 2013, 04:46:44 PM
This is the bit that gets to me the most:

Quote
In one experience, my delayed flight caused me to nearly miss a connecting flight due to severe weather which would’ve meant I’d have to stay overnight unexpectedly and in a strange place—polar opposite from my plans. I became so exasperated that I felt that the clerk wasn’t listening to my expression of restrained anxiety when she offered me a traveling cart to get me from one gate to another—I can walk, run if I have to, so getting from one gate to another wasn’t the issue! After not hearing the reassuring words I needed to hear, I finally “outed” myself by blurting, “I have autism (she never would’ve understood ‘Asperger’s’), and I really need your help to understand my options.” (By the way, I got home that same night just fine.)

If getting to the gate to meet his connecting flight wasn't the issue, what in the world was? I can certainly understand that being stranded overnight in a strange place is a stressful idea, and that it's even more stressful for some people than others. But the clerk was offering to get him to his next flight on time. He says he didn't need help, that he could make it on his own. Great. Then go do that, and let the clerk who's probably dealing with dozens of irate travelers get back to doing her job. What exactly did he want out of her that she wasn't already attempting to provide, over his objections?

I'm not a big fan of "she never would've understood 'Asperger's'" either. It's a pretty well known term these days, so it sounds like he's insulting the intelligence of the woman who was trying to help him.

This is the nature of the beast.  The thinking process and ability to cope with crowds and loss of expected routine and stress can be such a huge major issue that the Asperger person cannot cope with, at least not in the "normal" way.  What I read into this article, is that this guy was more concerned that the other person wasn't saying the right words and not so much he was about to miss the flight.  The change in expected schedule was a problem in exacerbating the whole situation, but he got on a one-track-mind over people's words and explanations that were not correct, in his mind, and he could not move away from that.  Even in confronting the pilot and stewardess over the bag, he got in his mind certain things should be said and actions taken, and when these people didn't lock-step with whatever his thinking was, the whole situation got nuts.  This is the concrete, off the grid, thought process that can happen with an Asperger or autistic individual. 

And for the record, I am not speaking by level of personal experience, this is strictly my understanding in my limited capacity.

To say "she never would have understood Asperger," is probably very accurate and I don't see it as insulting.  Autism, I think, is more commonly known and understood, at least as far as some of the quirks are concerned.  I think this was his personal experience, other results may vary,.  I have used terminology that people understand better, kind of like using the term "breathing tube" over "trachea tube."  It's not meant to insult someone's intelligence, you just learn over time using certain descriptions are just easier for  everyone involved. 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: snowdragon on June 26, 2013, 05:53:06 PM
One section of the blogger's story has me wondering.  The paragraph about his carryon bag that got checked after he was told it would be brought planeside.    He says that he questioned the pilot (the PILOT?) about the bag, and called the pilot rude for shrugging and walking away.  He then says he "confronted" the flight attendant who instructed him, and was greeted by multiple staff members, including one who might be an air marshal.

 It depends on the airport. I most often travel out of Buffalo - I have taken my violin on the plane and the first time I did so, I was standing at the gate trying to ask the  gate attendant if I could take it on the plane as my carry on or  did I need to check it. The attendant did not answer me so the pilot and co- pilot intervened and told the gate attendant that I should board first and put it in the over head, because it would not be safe in the cargo hold. I imagine in larger airports - it would not be that easy to talk to pilot but in some of them it's possible.
 
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: blarg314 on June 26, 2013, 07:03:42 PM
I would like to hear people's opinions on balancing the rights and needs of passengers who may have a neurological difference, with the safety requirements of workers and other passengers.

I believe that if behavior is disruptive or dangerous in a "captive situation" like an airport terminal or airplane, it doesn't matter "why" a person is behaving disruptively or dangerously -- the behavior simply needs to be controlled.  I believe that if a person has a known condition that might lead that person to engage in disruptive or dangerous behavior, it is up to that person (and not the airline) to ensure there are measures in place to "protect" the person with the condition.

That's my feeling, too. The general security issues are such that the staff does not have the time and resources to assume that someone might be disruptive because of a disability and need help, and someone who is disruptive due to a known medical issue is still disrupting the flight and inconveniencing the rest of the passengers, and tying up security personal. And, if they're behaving dangerously it's still dangerous no matter what the reason.

I would treat unpredictable issues differently. If someone with no prior issues has their first panic attack on a flight, then they still have to be restrained if they're causing a disruption. But because it was a medical issue that was not predictable, charges shouldn't be laid. If someone knows that their issues could lead to a major disruption, and they have to be restrained/the flight has to be re-routed, then they're responsible for the results.

Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: baglady on June 26, 2013, 07:21:35 PM
I have Asperger's. And anxiety. And a fear of flying. The way I cope is by not flying unless it's absolutely necessary, such as when my brother was on his deathbed across the country in 2002. I don't play the Aspie card because it's a fairly new addition to the deck -- I was diagnosed after 50 and it was more to explain my past than to excuse anything in my present. However, if I am having a meltdown at the airport -- or anywhere else -- it is involuntary and embarrassing, and if I am in a position to explain it, I simply say, "Beg your pardon, I have anxiety issues."

We have made great strides in accommodating people with disabilities. But here's the deal: The accommodators have to *know* about the disability. If you are an airport/airline employee and instinctively know that Random Person with no obvious signs of a disability (no wheelchair, crutches, service animal, obvious appearance or behavior) is disabled ... quit your airport job, hang out a shingle and start giving psychic readings.

Bottom line: This guy's a special snowflake who needs an attitude adjustment. Having an Asperger's diagnosis doesn't exempt him from a diagnosis of SS syndrome, any more than being blind or deaf or paralyzed would.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: hannahmollysmom on June 27, 2013, 12:38:20 AM
I went through such an issue tonight. Many flights were delayed due to thunder storms everywhere. I had one person who just couldn't understand. I had to explain that this weather is worse than snow to cause delays, as it isn't just the flying. If there is lightning in the area, then the ramp agents can't even load the luggage as they could get hit by lightning. Delays work the domino effect. (and my personal opinion is, if the captain doesn't feel it's safe to fly, then I'm with him/her!)

This person was upset that they wouldn't make their connection and blamed the airport. Asking, what were we going to do for him?

I totally understand that a person with autism (Asperger's)  needs routine, and needs to stay in their comfort zone, but sometimes, it just isn't possible.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Allyson on June 27, 2013, 03:25:15 AM
I don't blame him for his actions at the time, but for him to look back on it, and make sarcastic nasty comments about how it was handled, seems really over the top. It's a litany of what people did 'wrong' and how badly he felt, without an explanation of what would have been *right* in that situation, or what would've helped him. I read it and still have no idea what it was he wanted. If the majority of people reading the article are confused about what the flight staff did wrong, then I think it's very unrealistic for him to expect people to know what he needs without asking, especially in a stressful situation dealing with many many people who have anxiety about flying for tons of different reasons. Also, so far as I know, autism/Asperger's is not a one size fits all situation--what works for one person might be the wrong thing for another.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Twik on June 27, 2013, 02:54:11 PM
I understand just how frustrating these things are for ANY flier, not just ones with disabilities.

However, I think that a proactive approach would be to (1) prepare in advance with coping strategies for delays, even overnight ones, and (2) be prepared to explain your disability to obtain the help you need.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: Olympia on June 27, 2013, 11:53:05 PM
To say "she never would have understood Asperger," is probably very accurate and I don't see it as insulting.  Autism, I think, is more commonly known and understood, at least as far as some of the quirks are concerned.  I think this was his personal experience, other results may vary,.  I have used terminology that people understand better, kind of like using the term "breathing tube" over "trachea tube."  It's not meant to insult someone's intelligence, you just learn over time using certain descriptions are just easier for  everyone involved.

I disagree. His assumption seems to have been based on the fact that she didn't somehow pick up that he was on the spectrum. Of course she didn't deduce that from his "expression of restrained anxiety," because really, how was that different from any of the other people she was having to rebook? Many people know what Asperger's is without being able to immediately recognize it.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: perpetua on June 28, 2013, 01:16:33 AM
I've been trying to think how to word this since the start of the thread and I still think I'm coming up short, but I'll give it a go.

Since part of Aspergers is the inability to empathise with what other people are thinking/feeling, perhaps he doesn't comprehend that other people can't be expected to automatically recognise his disability and automatically know what he needs. Because it's *his* reality and he doesn't have the ability to empathise, perhaps he doesn't understand why other people aren't automatically seeing its existence. He knows what he needs, he doesn't empathise with others thought processes, therefore he assumes they are thinking the same way as he does about it and is shocked when it turns out they aren't. Perhaps that's what led to the blog post, rather than entitlement.

Still not explained correctly. I know what I'm trying to say, but I can't get it to come out right.
Title: Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
Post by: blueberry.muffin on June 28, 2013, 10:02:45 AM
To say "she never would have understood Asperger," is probably very accurate and I don't see it as insulting.  Autism, I think, is more commonly known and understood, at least as far as some of the quirks are concerned.  I think this was his personal experience, other results may vary,.  I have used terminology that people understand better, kind of like using the term "breathing tube" over "trachea tube."  It's not meant to insult someone's intelligence, you just learn over time using certain descriptions are just easier for  everyone involved.

I disagree. His assumption seems to have been based on the fact that she didn't somehow pick up that he was on the spectrum. Of course she didn't deduce that from his "expression of restrained anxiety," because really, how was that different from any of the other people she was having to rebook? Many people know what Asperger's is without being able to immediately recognize it.

I also feel like his immediate assumption of "never understood Asperger's" was insulting, for several reasons. 1) As a former teacher I had two students with the diagnosis of Asperger's. One had symptoms that were extremely obvious; one did not and I would never have guessed had it not been in her file. 2) His particular statement implies that she would never, in the future, be able to grasp Asperger's. Say wha? That's a direct slam on her intelligence and just plain belittling. :-P

In any event, I'm kind of wondering if this entire discussion is moot, considering that the DSM-V is heavily leaning towards the removal of the diagnosis.