Author: has written 428 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

57 Responses

  1. Woman With Muscular Dystrophy Had to Crawl Off Plane : The Curvature

    […] cross-posted at Feministe […]

  2. Caelum
    Caelum August 21, 2008 at 12:58 pm |

    That’s a damn shame. It really is. I can’t quite comprehend how both individuals and an organisation can be so callous and incompetent.

    However, you also hear about these things all the time, so can you really blame people for being cold and weary of being “called into action”? And it’s not like all disabled people are saints- I’ve encountered a few that acted like they deserved more entitlements than the rest of the world just because they happen to have a mild defect that puts them in a wheelchair.

    I agree with your rallying of the base, but not with your lambasting of society itself. There are plenty of people out there -disabled included- that think they deserve more than they’re getting. It’s going a bit too far to condemn everybody for the actions of a comparative few. Incompetent management, uncaring employees… are they really representative of the whole? No. Please direct your anger at them instead of the rest of us.

  3. eruvande
    eruvande August 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm |

    Wow.

    ….Wow.

  4. Nikita
    Nikita August 21, 2008 at 1:06 pm |

    I feel sick to my stomach at what they put this woman through. Absolutely horrid.

    I hope she sues them for emotional distress and whatever else she can. The behaviour of those involved was disgusting.

  5. Betsy
    Betsy August 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm |

    Caelum – holy shit. The fact that some disabled people are jerks (just like some of every category of human beings) has exactly nothing to do with what this woman endured. Even if she WERE a jerk, she wouldn’t deserve that kind of treatment. Jerks are entitled (yes, ENTITLED) to food, water, and bathroom breaks, just like the rest of us.

    Why did you feel the need to respond the way you did? Why the anger at the call for a more just, humane society for the disabled? What part of that is a problem? And “please direct your anger at them instead of the rest of us?” What made you think you personally were being called out?

  6. Roy
    Roy August 21, 2008 at 1:35 pm |

    But clearly we as a society still don’t presume that people with disabilities have the same right as the rest of us to use public spaces.

    Absolutely right. We’re duly outraged by the airline’s failure and the worker’s failure, but how much do we bet that few people going through the airport- if any- stopped to see if Julianna wanted or needed any help? You know, as she’s crawling to the shuttle?

    It’s like people have special magical blinders that make anyone with a disability invisible. I remember when I worked at a bookstore, one of our regular customers used a wheelchair, and sometimes had trouble in certain areas if we were particularly busy. On one occasion, I saw her come in while I was on the second floor, and when I looked back downstairs, I saw her accidently bump into a display, knocking a pile of magazines to the floor. In the time that it took me to walk from upstairs to down to see if she needed any help not one person stopped to ask her if they could help, instead leaving her to struggle trying to get the magazines up off of the floor and back onto the display. In a bookstore full of people.

  7. Holly
    Holly August 21, 2008 at 1:37 pm |

    However, you also hear about these things all the time, so can you really blame people for being cold and weary of being “called into action”?

    Uh… what? This kind of stuff happens far too much — people who can’t walk or move around easily without assistance being left to fend for themselves and crawl off an airplane — so the natural response is to feel apathetic and moan “Oh jeez. ANOTHER person who needs help that everyone has just abandoned? I’m so TIRED of this crap.” Yeah, that’s a great attitude to excuse / encourage, instead of getting people to work towards a system where people’s needs are actually taken care of and nobody is “put out” by having to “do something that’s not part of my job.”

    And it’s not like all disabled people are saints- I’ve encountered a few that acted like they deserved more entitlements than the rest of the world just because they happen to have a mild defect that puts them in a wheelchair.

    Cara just said this… but so what? What is your point? It’s a common STEREOTYPE about disabled people that they’re entitled jerks who could just help themselves but won’t. Thanks for spreading that bullshit and then trying to make it sound like you don’t believe it by inserting the words “a few.” If it’s a few jerks, then what bearing does it have on the issue here? Of course people with disabilities aren’t all saints — that’s another silly reverse stereotype. But I didn’t see anyone arguing for it.

    Incompetent management, uncaring employees… are they really representative of the whole? No. Please direct your anger at them instead of the rest of us.

    I’d be more inclined to agree if I didn’t keep hearing this kind of story, and if every time I did a bunch of assholes pop up to talk about how lazy and entitled disabled people are. I’ll just hold you, personally, responsible for doing the latter, and contributing to negative stereotyping of people with disabilities.

    But yeah, I’m glad you’re here to protect society from the mean people who want to lambast it! Where would we be without society? We should be careful not to unfairly criticize it — good thing society and everybody in it (critics too!) have you to stand up and be its defender.

  8. sara no h.
    sara no h. August 21, 2008 at 1:42 pm |

    What is it with airlines/airline employees/airports and a lack of basic respect/decency toward other human beings? It seems that every time I turn around there’s some new story involving airports or the people working at them that demonstrate a total commitment to making other people’s lives shitty.

  9. Roy
    Roy August 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm |

    However, you also hear about these things all the time, so can you really blame people for being cold and weary of being “called into action”? And it’s not like all disabled people are saints- I’ve encountered a few that acted like they deserved more entitlements than the rest of the world just because they happen to have a mild defect that puts them in a wheelchair.

    Caelum: A long time ago I had a sociology professor who tried to explain to us the nature of a social problem.

    I don’t remember exactly how he put it, but the general idea applies here.

    When, for example, one airline employee treats one person with disabilities like shit, that’s a personal problem, and can be addressed by dealing with that employee.

    But when many people with disabilities are treated with disrespect in a variety of situations, that suggests a systemic problem. That’s a social problem. Dealing with the employees at the airline who failed to help this woman won’t solve the systemic problem. A social problem has to be dealt with at a social level. Whether you think that some people with disabilities are jerks or not.

  10. Andy
    Andy August 21, 2008 at 2:26 pm |

    I’m going to try to say this without coming off like a troll, if you would be so kind to bear with me. :)

    I was given the impression growing up that many people with disabilities often feel belittled (?) when offered help in a situation they know they can handle themselves. I think about this every time when I see someone who [i]I think[/i] may need a hand. Will they be offended if I offer? Is it worth the offense just to make sure that the offer is made? Am I putting my need to feel like a good person before valuing their autonomy?

    I really feel quite lost when navigating these types of situations because I know in the end that every person with disabilities is just that: a person, an individual with different attitudes and beliefs of which I know NOTHING about.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that maybe there was some person who thought to offer and then thought again.

    There has to be some privileged assumption(s) that I’m missing in all this. I would like to learn more, if someone has the time to talk about it.

  11. manda
    manda August 21, 2008 at 2:42 pm |

    I don’t understand why nobody helped this poor woman. How did nobody notice a woman crawling? It’s basic human decency to help someone in need. You hold the door for someone if they are (for whatever reason) unable to do so. If someone drops their wallet, you pick it up and hand it to them. If you hear someone asking for toilet paper in the next stall, you hand some over. And for fuck’s sake if you see a woman crawling in a public place, you take you ass over there and ask if she needs some assistance – and then you help her. It’s not that difficult.

  12. Anna (the less awesome!)
    Anna (the less awesome!) August 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm |

    Andy:

    I don’t think it harms you personally to be told “No, I’m good, thanks” as much as it harmed Julianna to crawl to the airport shuttle.

  13. Hawise, Dame of the Deep-fried
    Hawise, Dame of the Deep-fried August 21, 2008 at 2:45 pm |

    Andy- it is really about how you approach the situation and less about how they will. How you offer help is often more important than that you do. If you are polite and well-meaning and don’t give off the aura of being imposed upon or sanctimonious then most (never all) people will respond in kind. There is a sizable difference between “Can I help?” and “Here let me do that.”

    In any case, that is a deplorable situation and there is no justification for it as it was probably planned out in advance to ensure that the connection was possible. The airline and staff failed to do what was necessary and the woman suffered as a consequence, she deserves compensation.

  14. Sarah
    Sarah August 21, 2008 at 2:59 pm |

    Others have responded nicely to Caelum’s comments, but I also want to point out that it is wholly inappropriate to describe anyone has having a “defect,” mild or otherwise.

    Andy, some of what you say is true, but I don’t think it really applies to this situaton. The airline was obligated by law to accommodate her, and did not even though she was *asking* to be helped, which is just asshole-ish. I don’t have a physical disability, but I would guess that switching airplanes can make one more vulnerable than usual because, like Cara said, she wasn’t using a power chair and was alone, etc. I see a difference between rushing to help someone who is isn’t asking for it and is doing their everyday routine than someone in this situation

  15. Anna (the less awesome!)
    Anna (the less awesome!) August 21, 2008 at 2:59 pm |

    GRRR, I’m so angry I’m shaking. I snarked more than intended, Andy, I’m sorry. But stories like this keep me up at night. My husband often travels alone and just the shit he’s been through is enough. This is so much worse.

    We “joke” around my house that I could kill him for being a burden and people would feel sorry for me cuz I’d then be a widow. Cuz, as you know, pwd are just a freakin’ burden and if they’re not NICE ENOUGH they deserve to be treated like garbage,don’tcha know.

  16. Roy
    Roy August 21, 2008 at 3:04 pm |

    Exactly.
    If I saw anyone struggling to reach something that I could reach, I’d ask “do you need help getting that down?” If I saw anyone having trouble getting a door open at the bookstore, I’d hold it open for them. If I notice that someone is having trouble with X and might want or need help with it, I think that asking “Would you like a hand with X?” or “I noticed you were having trouble with X, is there anything I can do to help?” is probably okay. I’ve certainly never had someone get angry with me for asking that way, although I suppose it’s possible.

    Anyway, like Cara says, the key point for me is that the person is having trouble with something that I might be able to help with, not that they’re in a wheelchair or can’t see or whatever. I don’t assume that a person using a cane needs or wants help walking around the store. I do assume someone that someone struggling to open a door and dropping packages in the process might appreciate a hand.

  17. Gidget Commando
    Gidget Commando August 21, 2008 at 3:20 pm |

    I’m glad I wasn’t on that flight. I’d probably have been arrested for beating asshat airline employees for asshattery.

  18. Charity
    Charity August 21, 2008 at 3:43 pm |

    This is absolutely appalling, and I can only imagine how humiliating it was for Julianna to be treated as some kind of subhuman inconvenience, unworthy of basic decency and respect. Asking to use the restroom or for a drink of water are not signs of pathological “entitlement”, and neither is trying to comply with the AIRLINE’S rules about how and when she must be accompanied / transported back and forth within an airport. She didn’t choose to rely on their personnel and their wheelchair, it was mandated. I hope Delta is fined up and down for this.

    I understood Cara’s point about *society’s* responsibility as a response not only to the original incident, but to the undeniable trend in many industries’ / bystanders’ treatment of / lack of consideration for people with disabilities, STILL, these many years after ADA and many years into what should be a more “aware” era when it comes to ableism. Some of the comments over at Consumerist, for example, show just how little many of us know about what it’s like to travel (hellish for ANYONE) with a disability that restricts mobility in some way…people are unaware of all the rules and restrictions facing people with disabilities, and fail to even consider what an experience like Julianna’s would be like – physically and emotionally draining, enraging, dehumanizing. It’s bad enough when an environment fails to be reasonably accommodating, but here it was downright hostile.

  19. Bint
    Bint August 21, 2008 at 3:49 pm |

    All I can do is cry after reading this. It just sort of reinforces my belief that there are a significant number of folks really would rather see us dead than to treat us with dignity.

    I haven’t flown on an airplane in over five years precisely because I am afraid of situations like this. I’m am too afraid to take a chance and see what would happen if I had a medical situation occur while in the hands of the airline companies.

    But, you’re right, this is all indicative of a systemic problem–that we live in a society that is extremely ablist. Cara, thank you for bringing more awareness to the kind of treatment that our people have to deal with every single day.

    Your sister in the struggle,
    bint

  20. Danny
    Danny August 21, 2008 at 4:10 pm |

    Andy:

    I don’t think it harms you personally to be told “No, I’m good, thanks” as much as it harmed Julianna to crawl to the airport shuttle.

    I don’t think he is trying to say that his feelings will be hurt more. I think Andy is trying to say that he is worried about offending someone by assuming that they need help just because of a disability.

    That doesn’t apply to this situation but its a legitimate concern.

  21. Disgruntled Ladye
    Disgruntled Ladye August 21, 2008 at 4:16 pm |

    @Andy –
    As long as you ask before just automatically doing something (like grabbing my wheelchair and yanking me around as I’m trying to maneuver out of a tight spot–then getting upset when I tell them “really, I can handle this myself”), offering assistance is fine. It’s assuming that I can’t do anything for myself that is annoying.

    And I can personally state that flying as a PWD is a real pain in the arse. I’ve never been treated as horribly as the woman who wrote the letter, but sadly, it doesn’t surprise me.

    When flying, you never know if they’ll actually have a ramp and such equipment to get me onto and off of the plane safely. The last time I flew, I was stuck in a hot plane for an hour–this is a major issue for someone whose illness is highly sensitive to heat. I rang the flight attendant multiple times, but she wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence, let alone ask what I needed. Before I used my own wc at airports, I had worse experiences, so I can only imagine what powerchair users put up with.

    It’s all systemic. You have people who are afraid to help or don’t know how to offer help appropriately but on the other end people who won’t because pwds are “icky”. ugh. Sadly, I don’t see an easy solution.

  22. Andy
    Andy August 21, 2008 at 4:47 pm |

    I should clarify that obviously Juliana’s case is different from what I described above and that a lot of people screwed up in her case.

    Thanks to everyone for answering. I think Roy had a good point with, you know, just (POLITELY) asking *anyone* how looks like their struggling with something if they could use some help, regardless of whether they’re a PWD or not. Maybe phrasing things, “Would you like a hand?” instead of “Do you need my help?” would go along way too.

    It seems like too many able-bodied people are caught in a web of thoughts that include not wanting to offend PWD (i.e. what’s proper etiquette in interacting with a person with a particular disability?) , not wanting to draw attention to a PWD’s particular disability because they think it’s something to be embarrassed about somehow, ignoring PWD because they don’t want to think about it happening to them, and probably more that I can’t even think of.
    Some of it seems like it would be fairly simple to remedy with some good ol’ fashion education. The rest? I just don’t know right now.

  23. preying mantis
    preying mantis August 21, 2008 at 5:04 pm |

    “However, you also hear about these things all the time, so can you really blame people for being cold and weary of being “called into action”?”

    Wait, what?

  24. Natalia
    Natalia August 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm |

    You stay classy, Delta Airlines.

  25. Anna
    Anna August 21, 2008 at 6:24 pm |

    Danny, I don’t think it is because the fear of offering to help someone with a disability is “what will they think of me?”

    Which sounds a lot like “I’m doing this for me and not them.”

    The other side, of course, is people who do just grab wheelchairs or arms and are “helpful” and then get pissed when that pesky disabled person isn’t “grateful”.

    As the discussion evolved, it really is about asking instead of assuming – as though we should treat people with disabilities as though they are people and not inconveniences.

  26. Anna
    Anna August 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm |

    Andy, in my oh-so-expert opinion, media can be a big help here.

    There are very rarely PWD in mainstream media, and those that are tend to be SuperCrips. So, you’ll get Professor X in his wheelchair who is Amazing! and The Best Mutant Evar! Gosh, I wanna be cool like him! Or, in the FBoFW comic strip, you’ll get Miss Edwards, who is The Best! Teacher! Evar! And her life is a lesson in tolerance for the people around her! (See also: Shannon in the same strip.) (And the artist, Lynn Johnson, also thinks people who have chronic pain conditions should suffer in silence because otherwise they are irritating. Caregivers, on the other hand, should totally complain as much as they need. Lynn Johnson can bite me.)

    I understand there’s a couple of shows on now with people with canes and the like, and I recall watching “Life Goes On” (iirc) with the son with Down’s Syndrome, and I think “Joan of Arcadia” had a really well developed character with disabilities (the eldest brother). But I think more shows and movies that have PWD that aren’t there for A Very Special Lesson About Tolerance would be awesome.

  27. Gag me with a spoon « Ideologically Impure

    […] 21, 2008 · No Comments There’s an awful post up at Feministe about a woman with muscular dystrophy who had a horrific ordeal while travelling: […]

  28. Luna
    Luna August 21, 2008 at 7:34 pm |

    I’ve been on both ends of this. I was a PWD. It was chronic, and thought incurable (turned out to be wrong – I’m “normal” now). I had to use a wheelchair a fair bit back then. Many times, I was ignored, treated like I wasn’t there, etc. Other times, people grabbed the chair and moved me without my permission (scary, that is!).

    The one time I flew, I had a fantastic experience of it. I got wheeled through all the secured areas, skipped through lines, got on the plane first, got extra food (dunno why, but hey, bonus!)

    Now, I’m careful to ask politely if someone needs help, as I would for anyone. And I have had my face bitten off for it so many times, I’m getting nervous to ask! A few weeks ago, I said, “Sorry, our door isn’t particularly accessible, you’ll have to let me get it for you.”* (there is NO WAY IN HELL to get that door open from in a chair. It’s hardly possible if one is a little weaker than normal – it’s a heavy door on a strong spring, and it opens toward a ramp.) The woman said, “I’ll have to let you do nothing of the sort! I’ll get it myself.” So I said, “If you insist. If you change your mind, just ring the bell, or knock loudly, and I’ll come get it.” She knocked loudly about 5 minutes later, and then screamed at me for not having an accessible door. I said, “No, we don’t. That’s why we have me. To open it for people who can’t.”

    Yeah. If it were an isolated incident, that’d be one thing, but I swear, I’ve been barked at at least as many times as someone has *politely* accepted or turned down.

    (And no, I don’t always phrase it that way. In most cases, I just say, “Can I help?” or “Can I get that for you?”)

  29. Dana
    Dana August 21, 2008 at 8:33 pm |

    Eugh. That is just so awful, I cannot imagine it (or I can… but I can’t). :(

    Re: Andy’s comment though: I believe I could not see someone forced to fucking crawl and not help (WTF?) but in general yeah I am not very good at offering help.

    Anna, it’s nothing to do with “your feelings” for christ’s sake. Personally, as a woman, I hate being offered help. Yes, even nicely. I know I look awkward carrying this 30kg box of metal stuff, but so would you thanks, GO AWAY. Add on top of that the fact I’m extremely uncomfortable talking to strangers at all and I’m only going to offer to help someone if it’s really really really clear they need it.

  30. exholt
    exholt August 21, 2008 at 9:14 pm |

    This is infuriating to read as even though I am able-bodied, I have been physically assaulted several times during morning/afternoon rush hours when I attended junior high school on the bus/subway and despite massive crowds and the fact I was a short child being pummeled by several bigger kids. Only once did a passenger intercede to stop the assaults.

    When I see someone who is apparently in need of assistance like the women with MS, my usual impulse is to go and ask if s(he) needed any help and to do so if asked….even if it risked an irritated response or a yelling to a certain point.

    Yeah. If it were an isolated incident, that’d be one thing, but I swear, I’ve been barked at at least as many times as someone has *politely* accepted or turned down.

    I’ve not only gotten irritated responses and even yelled at at times which I just accepted as them having bad days, but also one ugly incident where an elderly White woman in my area used racial slurs which is never acceptable in my book.

  31. UBW
    UBW August 21, 2008 at 9:28 pm |

    Holy shit, this is INFURIATING.

  32. prairielily
    prairielily August 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm |

    When I was reading the comments, I came across the one that questioned how she was able to crawl down the stairs if she was so disabled, and it might have even made me angrier than reading about the assholes at Delta. It drives me CRAZY when people act like PWD have to be completely immobile and unable to do anything for themselves. It reminds me of a story about how this person worked in a store where a very fat woman had a pushchair, and one day got up and started walking around. Clearly, this was evidence that she had no mobility problems whatsoever, and was just fat and lazy.

    Why is it so difficult to understand that most blind people can see a little bit? That many people in wheelchairs can stand up or walk very short distances, but still need the chair so they don’t collapse in the middle of the grocery store when they become exhausted? Why do we treat PWD like they have to be completely invalid to deserve any sort of human decency?

  33. Broce
    Broce August 21, 2008 at 10:39 pm |

    A few years back, while undergoing 7 years of repeated knee surgeries, I had occasion to fly into O’Hare (which is a nightmare for anyone). I connected through there, and discovered on landing that my next flight was in another *terminal*. There was absolutely no way that I, then using a cane and limping from having been cramped on an airplane already for two hours, was going to make it in time on foot. So I asked for help, and spent a very anxious 20 minutes waiting for someone to show up with a wheelchair. By that time, he had to *run* through the airport pushing the chair, taking back routes in parts of the airport I didnt even know existed. I was really uncomfortable, not only with the speed (and anxious about missing the flight), but with the fact that this total stranger was taking me through some very deserted areas which were a complete maze to me. It made me feel very vulnerable – I was completely lost, the area was utterly deserted, and I wasnt in any position to fight back if this guy turned out to be a nutcase or something. I wondered at the time if this was something PWD experience whenever they fly. It was distinctly uncomfortable.

  34. Anna
    Anna August 21, 2008 at 11:32 pm |

    Dana, I’m not sure I understand your comment.

    As I read Andy’s original question, it was basically “I’m uncomfortable asking PWD if I can help them because I think it implies they’re incapable of doing anything and I don’t want to give them that impression.” And so, as I read Andy’s comment, he never offers to help PWD with something.

    Asking a person in a chair if they need help picking up all these things that have scattered on the floor is just the same as asking someone else who’s just knocked a stack of things on the floor if they need some help. Not wanting to ask because you don’t want to imply that they’re incapable is strange to me. I don’t think offering to help people who have dropped things who aren’t disabled implies they’re incapable.

    My husband is harmed when people see him struggling to pull open the door and wheel through it and just ignore it. He’s harmed when people grab his chair and push him through, too. He’s harmed when he’s just left someplace by airport personnel and not told if he should wait there, when they’ll be back for him, if he can leave the area and come back. Often they won’t even talk to him at all, except to confirm he’s their problem. Like he’s a sack of potatoes.

    Too many people treat PWD as though they are a problem to be solved or something to ignore, or like they’re trying to get away with something. Yes, my husband can stand up and walk. But if he walks to the damned grocery store instead of taking his chair, that will be the only thing he does today. But obviously he’s just mildly defective. And faking it for the pain meds.

    BTW: AirCanada has a specific phone number that PWD can call to book any of their travel arrangements. In our experience, AirCanada is really quite good for such things. Our worst situation was with EasyJet in the UK. Apparently the 6’10” man with a cane needs a doctor’s note to indicate that he needs a seat with leg room. (Every time after that, when we presented a doctor’s note saying this, people would go “Wait, why would you need that? It’s obvious he’s tall and has long legs and needs a seat with leg room! What silliness!”)

  35. Pinko Punko
    Pinko Punko August 22, 2008 at 12:45 am |

    The Consumerist has some of the biggest jack ass commenters on earth. People go there to gloat. I can’t even imagine why they would bother to register to comment to say the things they do. I read the comments there when I want to see how petty people can be.

  36. Tapetum
    Tapetum August 22, 2008 at 12:59 am |

    What is it with people who assume that anything short of complete paralysis isn’t worthy of a wheelchair? I watched a video the other day of a woman wheelchair boxing (and awesomely good at it!), and one of the comments was somebody saying she was faking because her knee twitched. It’s just awe-inspiringly stupid, and it leads to active harm to a lot of PWD’s.

  37. TrishB
    TrishB August 22, 2008 at 1:19 am |

    This is about the saddest post and I’ve ever read. What the airline and airport did to Julianna is nothing short of disgusting.

    I have no experience in being physically disabled. Last year after a very delayed/canceled late flight out of Newark, I broke my ankle very late that night. After hobbling up to check-in the next morning (using my 5’0″ sister as a human crutch), the airline took over. They got me a wheelchair, put me in the quick security line, and boarded me first. It was the only hassle free check-in/security I’ve ever experienced. Dayton OH was the destination airport and the staff was slightly more hesitant to help, but once we explained the situation, an airport employee took over and wheeled me to the curb, waited while my sister pulled up her car, and then helped me up and into it.

    Guess what? I got lucky. Maybe I should’ve crawled.

  38. Danny
    Danny August 22, 2008 at 1:27 am |

    Asking a person in a chair if they need help picking up all these things that have scattered on the floor is just the same as asking someone else who’s just knocked a stack of things on the floor if they need some help.
    Disability or not there are plenty of people that sometimes feel that to be offered help means the person offering thinks you cannot do it yourself.

    Not wanting to ask because you don’t want to imply that they’re incapable is strange to me.
    Makes sense to me. I often times don’t offer help because I don’t want to imply that they cannot perform the task on their own. And people like Dana from comment 33 are why. No one wants to feel like they are helpless and offering help can make people feel helpless sometimes.

    I don’t think offering to help people who have dropped things who aren’t disabled implies they’re incapable.
    That depends on the person you’re dealing with.

  39. denelian
    denelian August 22, 2008 at 2:29 am |

    holy fuck.
    last winter i flew from Ohio to norther CA to visit my mother. there was a wheelchair put ON THE PLANE for me. i could see it from my seat (it wasn’t *my* wheelchair; it had to go in baggage).

    how the HELL did Delta drop the bal so fucking badly? if i were this woman, i would sueandsueandsueandsue…

    and, seriously, to say someone who can walk *a little* isn’t disabled? or who can move her arms or whatever? fuck them, and fuck that. there have been times when i wished i had CANCER instead of porphyria and fibromalgia, because at least then people would BELIEVE that i had medical problems and wasn’t just lazy! that, in itself, is a serious indictment of our society, when a pwd feels she would be better of dying!!! i seriously am beginning to hate society.

    has anyone set up a fund to help this woman with legal fees or whatever? i’m broke until the first, but then i could donate.

  40. More like Thursday evening linking « Uppity Brown Woman

    […] Feministe – Woman with muscular dystrophy had to crawl off plane […]

  41. Dana
    Dana August 22, 2008 at 4:30 am |

    I think you’re misreading my post completely. Did you read the part about “unless it’s really really really clear they need [help]“?

    What is difficult to understand about not wanting to ask because it implies they’re incapable? As a women, men offer to help me with things. A lot. When they would not offer to help a man. This pisses me off. To the point where I get like “fuck OFF” if guys don’t back off the second I say “no thanks”. If I were disabled I would feel similarly, if not more strongly.

    If someone’s obviously having great difficulty with something I will offer to help. I generally hold doors if I go through it first and grab doors if people are carrying things so of course if I saw someone going through a door in a wheelchair and it’s obviously difficult I’d open it.

    But it’s not always clear cut when someone would like help and when they would not. Do you understand?

  42. Mike
    Mike August 22, 2008 at 4:58 am |

    Andy, in my experience with friends and colleagues who are PWD, there’s no harm in asking, if there is harm it is minor and it doesn’t really matter anyway because asking is the right thing to do. I don’t mean being patronizing or asking when there’s no indication that the person might have trouble. I mean asking when it seems possible.

    This doesn’t mean that you’ll never offend someone or feel uncomfortable. You probably will at some point. But you can deal with that, and so can PWD. I don’t mind asking and making an ass out of myself, or asking in good faith and having someone feel patronized. At least one errs on the side of being decent, and I’ve been called an asshole for worse. ;-)

  43. Nathan Sleeter
    Nathan Sleeter August 22, 2008 at 7:07 am |

    I think common sense is enough of a guide when deciding whether an offer of help is appropriate. I’m over six feet tall, and I’ve often seen shorter people straining on their tip toes in a grocery store. That’s the point I spring into action with my offer of assistance. Sometimes I say, “Can I get that for you?”. Other times it’s “Need some help?” I do this even though I know that not all short people are saints. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

  44. Anna
    Anna August 22, 2008 at 7:39 am |

    You’re right, Dana, I think I was. I’m sorry.

    When people say “Well, I don’t want to ask because I might offend” and “I wait till they obviously need help” – what makes it so they obviously need help? People ignore my husband and I, or they stare at us while we struggle. Do they think that if they offer to grab the door they’ll be offending me? Do they think asking if we need any help will get them barked at? What struggle indicates that they need help enough to risk it? (In rereading that, I think it could be taken as snarky or angry. I’m aiming for curious and discussion, and I hope that comes across, but it’s hard in this medium.)

    I don’t know. But I wonder if people seeing Juliana (not the employees, but others in the airport) decided that she was either drunk, or that offering to help a pwd would have lead to them being yelled at, and they didn’t want that? Or was it just “Let’s pretend she doesn’t exist because we don’t want to catch whatever she has.”

  45. Roy
    Roy August 22, 2008 at 9:10 am |

    Makes sense to me. I often times don’t offer help because I don’t want to imply that they cannot perform the task on their own. And people like Dana from comment 33 are why. No one wants to feel like they are helpless and offering help can make people feel helpless sometimes.

    That’s true, it can.
    But, not offering help can mean that someone who needs or wants help doesn’t get it. As with Julianna.

    Ultimately, you have to choose which you think is less harmful: offending someone who doesn’t want or need help or ignoring someone who does.

    Personally, I think that the world would be a lot better place if more people, not fewer, stopped and offered to help each other. Some people won’t appreciate it, it’s true, and if they don’t, you back off and let them do their thing.

  46. Dene
    Dene August 22, 2008 at 11:58 am |

    Just to add another thought to the “disabled people are so entitled” myth, I remember a blind woman telling me about having to deal with her resentful office mate about her disability. Despite the struggles she had to deal with to find work that he didn’t, he insisted that her computer was unfair. She had a computer specially enabled for someone with visual disabilities, of course, perhaps with voice activitation? The guy seemed to assume that this was the equivalent of a magic computer that was a thousand times easier than the one he was using, and was awarded to her as a prize for being blind.

    As opposed to, you know, a totally reasonable alteration in how she did her job based on her physical situation. So I’ve learned to never take the “disabled people are so entitled” claim at face value.

  47. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 22, 2008 at 12:26 pm |

    Word to the whole “oh, you’re not disabled because you aren’t completely incapacitated” thing.

    My husband is legally blind. His vision at maximum correction is 20/70 with contact lenses, 20/100 with glasses. He brought me with him into this bureaucratic thing he had to do because he had forgotten his magnifying glass and would need me to read the paperwork for him. The security people didn’t want to let me in because it was policy that only the person who had to do the papers was supposed to go in, and when he explained that he was legally blind, they asked if he had papers to prove it. Um, yeah, it’s a legal requirement to *prove* that you can’t see jack unless it’s directly on top of your nose? They said “Well, it looks to me like you’re looking straight at me!” yes, hello, just because a man can see well enough to see *you*, human-sized security guy, doesn’t mean he can see well enough to read paperwork that was printed in a 10 pt font.

    As for how this woman was treated, it’s appalling, but it doesn’t surprise me; flying has become more and more unpleasant and hellish since 1996, let alone after 2001, and simply the experience of being on a plane is so awful I’m sure it stresses people out and makes many otherwise good people too upset with the world to notice that someone else needs help. Also, the horrible conditions of flying encourage passengers to hate flight attendants, which results in flight attendants developing an “us vs. them” mentality that results in power tripping and disregarding the needs of customers. Frankly, I want trains to come back in a big way and break the back of the airline industry. It’s great that I can get to California in six hours but not if it’s actually going to be 12 hours and I’m going to be treated like I’m a subhuman piece of belligerent cargo for that time. I’d rather take three days on a train.

    I hope this woman sues, and wins such a whopping huge lawsuit that the struggling carrier goes out of business, and every other carrier becomes so terrified of the possibility that they bend over backwards to meet the needs of disabled customers and fire the ass of any employee who so much as jokes about disabled people being a pain in the ass.

  48. guzelk
    guzelk August 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm |

    Its Ronald Reagans fault for deregulating the airlines. Directly after this action there is a downfall of the airline industry as an industry. I believe there is also a direct relationship between deregulation and the lack of customer service. We went from a some government control over the industry to the industry regulating itself. When big business regulates itself it smacks of old fashion monopolies. Thanks Ronnie.

  49. Lioness
    Lioness August 22, 2008 at 3:44 pm |

    A couple of years ago, I was travelling with my leg brace and crutch. My crutch is the type that is short and fastens around your wrist with the hand-hold (the stereotypical cripple-crutch, I call it). I wear long skirts that hide my brace for the most part. Unless I’m walking, and you see me from the side my crutch is on, you may not know I have any issues at all. Anyway, I had a very tight connection in Houston that day–35 minutes to get to a different terminal. I asked the attendents for a cart to take me to the other terminal. The cart attendent who came to pick me up saw me sitting alone in the seats and told me that my terminal would be the last stop. When I protested that my flight was leaving in less than 20 minutes, she said that there were other people on the cart and pointed out some older folks and children (I’m in my late thirties but look younger.). I pulled my crutch out from beneath the seat and climbed up on the cart. One of the older gentlemen moved out of the way so I could get on the nearest seat and even gave me a hand up on the cart. Amazingly enough, we went to my terminal first. I only had to “prove” that I needed the cart.

    And let’s not even start on the number of times I’m asked in airports to remove the brace and send it through the x-ray machine. They look offended when you say, “No.” They don’t understand how long it takes to get it positioned correctly not to chafe, nor how unflatteringly you have to position yourself to get it on. It’s always amusing to me when they swab it with filter paper and run it through the mass spectrometer looking for explosives. Oh, and after they run my crutch through the x-ray, they can’t bring it back for me to use to come through security since it’s been “cleared.” I have to hobble through on my own those 30 yards. How am I going to put something in it with all of them watching after I’ve been patted down and scanned with the hand-held wand?

  50. Mel
    Mel August 22, 2008 at 4:17 pm |

    Dana, do you object if women offer to help you or hold doors for you? I ask because I automatically hold doors and help people pick things up indisciminately and without thinking about it, and I’ve never had a bad reaction. I’m wondering if it’s because I am small and female and thus don’t look like I’m assuming the other person can’t do anything.

    I’m also a bit confused about the door-holding thing–I mean, I guess I see a difference between holding a door for someone and letting them go through first (not necessary and kind of silly in most cases) and not letting the door close behind you in someone’s face (common courtesy, I thought–but does that bother some people?).

    The airline story is utterly appalling, and I am horrified that no bystanders even offered to help. I pretty much expect the airlines to make flying the most uncomfortable and humiliating experience possible these days, but I would have thought someone would have offered help. That’s just inconceivable to me.

  51. Crissa
    Crissa August 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm |

    Hold the damn plane and run to the other with her in chair in tow.

    I can’t believe that no one, from a steward on the plane to one at the airport to the airport itself didn’t step up to do it.

    Holy crap the story is a pile of stupid.

    And it’s the airline’s fault for having policies which lead to employees thinking they cannot step up to help someone.

  52. Dana
    Dana August 22, 2008 at 10:12 pm |

    You’re right, Dana, I think I was. I’m sorry.
    Bah, and I’m sorry I always overreact. I can see why you had the reaction you did :P

    When people say “Well, I don’t want to ask because I might offend” and “I wait till they obviously need help” – what makes it so they obviously need help? People ignore my husband and I, or they stare at us while we struggle. Do they think that if they offer to grab the door they’ll be offending me? Do they think asking if we need any help will get them barked at? What struggle indicates that they need help enough to risk it? (In rereading that, I think it could be taken as snarky or angry. I’m aiming for curious and discussion, and I hope that comes across, but it’s hard in this medium.)
    Generally, if people look distressed then I will help – or if it’s obvious, like someone with a cane trying to pick stuff up. But yeah, it’s hard to know, and I sometimes worry that I should have offered to help (I work in an area with a lot of elderly people).

    Oh, and again, I am deeply uncomfortable starting conversations. I get incredibly stressed in crowds. I walk extremely fast and have a huge personal space in public. So offering to help does not come easily.

    I don’t feel patronised when women offer to help (um, a woman is unlikely to offer because they assume they are stronger/more capable than me, it’s not exactly the same) but do not like to be helped by anyone of either sex. As I said, I hold doors for both sexes. I HATE men standing aside but seldom say anything.

  53. Craig R.
    Craig R. August 23, 2008 at 11:49 pm |

    Lioness —

    I use a cane a lot these days, and one of the most absurd things that TSA does is run the cane through their x-ray machine, and then expect you to proceed through the rest of the process without the cane — excuse me, but just what do they think the person who is *using* the cane are doing with it? Especially when ity’s a wooden one where most all the varnish is rubbed off the top portion through use.

    This past summer I thought that the TSA had actually had an attack of Clue(tm), as the screener at TF Green had a (somewhat battered) “loaner” cane for me to use while my own was being x-rayed. I should have known better — on the return leg it was another case of take-the-cane-and-watch-the-old-geezer-hobble.

    (and I am Officially Astonished at the fact that they felt they had to submit my harp case to explosives sniffing because the x-ray showed a battery in the tuner (you know, the thing that helps you check that the harp strings are at the right notes?) — the tuner itself is about the size of an audio cassette — and the first machine died partway through their “sniff test” and they had to start all over on another machine.

    Security theatre, not security practice.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.