VOICES: Airlines, TSA need to take accessibility seriously

Have you ever lost something while traveling on an airline?

Perhaps you’ve lost luggage, a phone, wallet, or even a purse. And, although upset and inconvenienced, none of these things stopped you from physically moving around.

If only I could have just lost my luggage when on my fall vacation to Seattle, Washington. The airline I flew with forgot to board my scooter on the plane while on a layover in North Carolina. Usually, I ride my scooter down the tunnel to board the plane and I’m usually the first to board. But, on this trip, I was asked by a TSA worker to transfer into a wheelchair while in the lobby. The TSA worker told me he was going to take my scooter down on the elevator and it would be boarded on the plane.

For some reason, I felt physically sick after transferring. It’s like I had separation anxiety. Unfortunately, my feeling was validated. After getting off the plane in Seattle, my scooter was not waiting for me to roll out — and I was heated. My favorite guy was equally upset.

After asking several people where my scooter was, even maintenance, I was told it was probably in baggage. I knew then there was going to be a problem. Even if it was in baggage, I knew it was broken. Have you ever seen how TSA handles baggage?

Although aggravated, I must say, the worker who assisted me in baggage claim was great! She located my scooter and gave me the news that it wouldn’t be arriving until 8:30 pm. Well, I did not receive my scooter at all during my stay in Seattle. Not until I returned to the airport to go back home. I missed my flight trying to retrieve it, but that’s another story.

Fortunately, the airline gave me a loaner scooter. Sad to say, airlines not only lose mobility devices, but they also break them.

Even though I was glad to have wheels, the loaner didn’t fit me. It had no arm rests and I was afraid I was going to hit a bump and fall out. It had no basket for me to store my purse and the seat sat too close to the steering wheel, making it difficult to steer. Like I always say, not all mobility devices fit all people. Still, with all that, I made it happen because I wasn’t going to let anything mess up my trip.

There needs to be a serious call to action to airlines about accessibility because situations like mine happen too often. Because I didn’t have my scooter when I got off the plane, I wasn’t able to use the restroom independently, get food, and had to reschedule ground transportation.

After contacting and complaining to the airline’s corporate office, my favorite guy and I were given a credit for our flight, which wasn’t the full price of what we paid. I don’t understand how this is right because taking away a person’s mobility device is just like taking away a person’s legs. I depend on my scooter to get around and I love it. I love my scooter so much, I even gave it a name, Cherry!

Will I fly again? Yes! I will never transfer from my scooter into a wheelchair in the airport lobby again. From now on, I’ll be known as the woman of many questions while in the airport.

Shari Cooper is a public relations assistant at Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley.

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