No matter how sensitive the world becomes in regard to the everyday problems faced by people with disabilities, the true hurdles they have to overcome cannot really be understood. Simple tasks like taking a cab or using the stairs can be daunting for people in wheelchairs. A similar story has recently surfaced, where Angelo Muredda tells us why he has avoided flying since the age of 16.
A Difficult Experience
Angelo has been in a wheelchair for a very long time and depends on it for his mobility. Having no way to move around without his wheelchair, Angelo and his family were skeptical of planning a trip to Rome when he was 16. They were, however, ensured by the airline that Angelo’s wheelchair would be able to accompany him to Rome.
Once the family reached the airport, however, they were asked to disassemble the wheelchair in order to take it on the plane. Understandably, this was no easy task for the family but they managed to get it done. The problem intensified when they landed in Rome and the officials had no idea how to reattach the parts into a fully functioning wheelchair.
Not the Only Unsettling Story
Angelo Muredda’s flying experience is not the only one of its kind. Another story comes from disability consultant Tim Rose. While he confirmed the details of his upcoming flight with Air Canada, Tim was told that his wheelchair exceeded the weight limit of luggage allowed on the flight. It was also some 13 centimeters taller than it needed to be in order to fit in through the plane’s cargo door.
Tim retaliated later by posting a Facebook video, saying that his wheelchair was a part of his life and it could not be treated as a piece of luggage without implying that Tim himself was ‘a piece of oversized luggage’ as well.
Wheelchairs are not Pieces of Luggage
Through these stories, people like Angelo and Tim are trying to explain to the world how their wheelchairs are more than just pieces of equipment. These mobility devices become essential parts of the identities of people who cannot move around without their help.
There are people and places that have ensured that people with disabilities are treated equally to those without. But according to Tanya Titchkosky, social justice education scholar at the University of Toronto, this can also cause people to not give enough importance to mobility devices like wheelchairs and crutches.
Barbara Gibson, who is a disability scholar, says that it is important for people to observe how people with disabilities interact with their assistive technologies. This can help us understand how important these devices are for the people who rely on them completely in order to be a productive part of this world.
Angelo Muredda’s reservations against flying and Tim Rose’s experience should be enough to make people understand the complex relationship a person with disability has with their equipment. It is the need of our time to come up with ways in which such people can be made to feel like they are an autonomous part of their community, without putting them through such impossible situations as mentioned in these two stories.