Lately there have been a few parents who have taken their children with special needs on airlines. Normally, this would be a non-event. Traveling with your family during holiday time is quite normal. So how do I know this? Because some of these moms have started unnecessary drama and twitter wars with the airlines.
Sometimes I find these articles on my own, in my own news feed or on my Google alerts. Often times, a friend will send it to me on Facebok or something. Sometimes I respond with “I know! I saw that, it’s terrible!” Lately though, more and more, I find myself responding with, “Yeah, I saw it….not going to polish up the pitchfork and join the crowd.”
The two most recent stories, both of which got a tremendous amount of publicity….they’re wrong. Just wrong. And it gives all special needs parents a bad name. I travel a lot with my kids, though admittedly my kids are not as high needs as some of the girls in the stories I’ve read. Doesn’t change the situation, in my opinion. I’m not linking to either story or Facebook page (I think it’s more than a coincidence these moms do have something to promote) because I don’t want them to get any more publicity.
Both stories involve a girl with disabilities who should have been sitting in their own airline seat at the time. Both Moms insisted that the airline should break their rules and allow the child to sit on the parent’s lap.
There are such simple solutions to this…I don’t know why the media allows this drama. First, they could have purchased an FAA approved car seat, which is specially designed for airline seats. Or, they could have made prior arrangements to have a wheelchair come on board an be locked into a designated spots. Certain sized planes are required to have one wheelchair spot for every X number of regular passenger seats. This isn’t rocket science, folks. Ok, actually designing said car seats and wheelchair-lock-spots is sort of rocket science. But purchasing one or making arrangements with the airline ahead of time is simple. Just an extra task on my daily list.
What’s worse is that once these moms did not get their own way, they took to Facebook and Twitter to bad mouth the airline. Really? You’re bad mouthing the airline for following federal safety regulations? I saw one mom say, “I just wanted my girl to be able to travel.” She was! Nobody was stopping you! They were just asking that you follow federal safety rules during the trip. No one was discriminating against you because your child is disabled.
Anyone who knows me knows….I will fight for these kids until my last day on Earth. If I feel that our kids are not being included, accommodated or being given equal opportunities…I’m there. Out in public, if you’re rude to me, not going to let it get to me. Your bad day is not going to infringe upon my good day…if rudeness is just plain rudeness. If you’re being rude, condescending or anything else because of my child with disabilities, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. A can of worms you probably don’t want to open with me. Because I will see to it that things are made right. But if I took to social media every time a service person of some sort was rude or indifferent, I’d have time for nothing else.
I’m not alone in my feelings, despite the thousands of “likes” and other support they are getting on social media. The national organizations that support their child’s disability are not supporting them, in fact one agency stated “We’re fairly certain that no discrimination took place.”
Moms, you are wrong in this one and you need to step up and admit it. You held flights up. Some families missed their connecting flights, during the holidays, no less. Yes, I understand that the airlines in the past have let you get away with it. Doesn’t matter. It’s like me speeding for weeks, then the day I get a ticket, try to claim it’s ok because in the past I have done it without getting caught. A flight attendant was intent on sticking to the rules, as she is instructed to do. You should have exited the plane or seen if the staff could have rounded up a car seat from some place in the airport. Instead, you acted like a prima donna and expected the world to part the seas because you entered a plane with a child with a disability. Then, after people missed flights and everything else, you had the gumption to take to social media and badmouth these folks? Are you kidding me?
Here’s a tip, for all parents….do your homework first! We already know that our lives bring special challenges, why wouldn’t you research this first? And if you do read the rules (and who doesn’t know the 2-year-old rule?) how about if you actually prepare yourself to follow those rules, not have a plan to break the rules and hope that you get away with it? If you are going to ask for special accommodations that require that we ignore federal regulations, how about getting that in writing instead of just winging it and inconveniencing the rest of the plane when it doesn’t go your way?
Whether we like it or not, many times we are ambassadors for the special needs community. All of us. People like to pigeon-hole people, like to keep us in nice, neat categories in their brain. We all know this…because how many times have you encountered the “oh, I have coworker who has a child with XYZ condition, and he…” and then they tell you something completely different from your child, but they think it’s the same? Am I right? So now we have an entire plane full of people who think that special needs moms are a giant pain in the butt who are going to cause you to miss your flight. Imagine those folks, who missed their connections and probably missed family activities….imagine the next time that they are in the gate of an airport, waiting for a flight…and they see you and your child in a wheelchair? You know that some of them will be thinking “Good grief, I hope they don’t make me miss my flight.”
Because here’s the thing…..sometimes people are actually thrown off of planes, for the mere fact that they are disabled. And you diminish their experiences and their real need for justice and for inclusion and understanding, when you act like this.