Author Topic: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities  (Read 10519 times)

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Lady Snowdon

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2013, 06:51:14 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!

camlan

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2013, 08:18:38 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.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


Eden

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2013, 09:36:48 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.

exitzero

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2013, 09:45:42 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.

Lynnv

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2013, 09:48:23 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.
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kherbert05

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #20 on: June 21, 2013, 10:00:49 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.
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z_squared82

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2013, 11:09:10 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.

RebeccainGA

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2013, 11:24:01 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.

perpetua

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #23 on: June 21, 2013, 11:31:22 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.

jaxsue

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2013, 12:15:48 PM »
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.

mime

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #25 on: June 21, 2013, 12:54:39 PM »
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.

Hillia

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #26 on: June 21, 2013, 01:05:16 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?

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #27 on: June 21, 2013, 01:18:38 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.
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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #28 on: June 21, 2013, 01:24:42 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.

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Re: Airlines and "Invisible" disabilities
« Reply #29 on: June 21, 2013, 01:26:45 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.