I used to really enjoy flying and traveling, even (no, especially) by myself. But ever since chronic pain has made it hard to walk or stand for long periods of time, I’ve found airports – even small airports – to be daunting. They’re a series of some walking, some waiting in line, and then some more walking and waiting in line; these are pretty much things I cannot manage to do in my current health.
So, of late, I’ve relied on being taken around airports in a wheelchair. In the past, my ex-husband pushed me around; now that I’m on my own, it’s an airline employee doing it. Trusting my safety to a complete stranger isn’t easy. Trusting my safety to my ex was even hard at times, especially with his track record of running my wheelchair into people and things. I have to just tense up and hope they’re a thoughtful, caring, sympathetic person.
The one small perk to be found from my condition, is that we are able to just go around the TSA security check lines and I am wheeled right on through (though I still have to wait in line for and stand up for the body scan) and then on to my gate.
Here’s the thing: I don’t feel comfortable getting to skip the line. I don’t feel comfortable in the wheelchair. I don’t feel comfortable being treated differently than any other passenger. And yet… and yet, I know that I cannot function like any other passenger. My broken body prevents this.
I’m handicapped. I have a placard for my car. I go around airports in a wheelchair. I walk with a cane sometimes. I have an application in the system for for Social Security Disability. I’m not healthy. I’m not well. I’m not normal. I MUST accept this fact.
Talk to people with both visible and invisible disabilities and you’ll probably hear one thing over and over – “I don’t want to be treated any differently.” We don’t want special treatment; we just want a fair shot at living in the same world that able-bodied people live in with little to no effort. The phrase is generally, “reasonable accommodation.” We want the playing field leveled, not destroyed. We don’t want to be treated better than anyone else, simply with some sensitivity and understanding.
Traveling as I do – most notably, being pushed around in a wheelchair – robs me of a great deal of my sense of independence. I don’t want to be treated like a special snowflake; I, like so many others, just want a fair shot.