Author Topic: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities  (Read 9092 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Dragonflymom

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2688
Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« on: June 20, 2013, 08:27:04 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?
"By swallowing evil goats unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach"  Winston Churchill

HorseFreak

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2724
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2013, 09:17:46 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?

kherbert05

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 9928
    • Trees downed in my yard by Ike and the clean up
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2013, 09:21:01 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.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2013, 09:37:09 PM by kherbert05 »
Don't Teach Them For Your Past. Teach Them For Their Future

lovepickles

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 143
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2013, 09:26:38 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

*inviteseller

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1821
  • I am Queen Mommy
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2013, 09:39:59 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.

Winterlight

  • On the internet, no one can tell you're a dog- arf.
  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 9433
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2013, 10:41:25 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.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2013, 10:57:46 PM by Winterlight »
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
Caroline Lake Ingalls

Ceallach

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4442
    • This Is It
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2013, 10:48:43 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.
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


m2kbug

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1130
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2013, 10:58:45 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. 

kareng57

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12184
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2013, 11:05:54 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.

Onyx_TKD

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1200
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2013, 01:18:31 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.

blarg314

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8301
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2013, 01:27:01 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.

Slartibartfast

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 11458
    • Nerdy Necklaces - my Etsy shop!
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2013, 01:31:47 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.

GSNW

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 494
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2013, 02:22:22 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. 

Elfmama

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5707
  • Is it Spring yet?
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2013, 02:54:26 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. 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I don't go crazy.  I AM crazy.  I sometimes go normal. 
Please make a note of this for future reference.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

blarg314

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8301
Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2013, 04:43:09 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?