Model, TV presenter and Enable columnist Sophie Morgan loves nothing more than packing her bags and setting off to discover everything the world has to offer. Unfortunately, this isn’t always as straight forward as she’d like…
When I had my accident almost 10 years ago, I remember that one of the first things I presumed I had lost was the ability to travel.
I soon learned that this wasn’t the case, when my dad whisked me off to Canada, anxious to prove that the world was “still my oyster”, “mine for the taking” and lots of other inspirational and encouraging things. The travel bug was caught and since then I have taken every opportunity available to see the world.
Trips have been as safe and domestic as Scotland and as intrepid and enormous as northern India, Nicaragua or Africa. And the years of experience have given me the impression that disabled or not, wheelchair or not, I can still explore the world.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
However, there are certain things I have learned to expect when arriving at airports anywhere in the world. Firstly, I know to expect the unexpected. There seems to be absolutely NO set policy on how wheelchair users travel.
I know that different airlines and airports like to follow different rules, so where one may let me pre-board and be carried on by a muscular friend to a convenient seat at the front, others will protest at any uninsured assistance, shove me in a tiny and awkward ‘aisle-chair’ and drag me to my seat somewhere in the bowels of the plane.
Airport security always varies too, and I’ve even been subjected to prods and gasps of ignorance and disbelief of my invisible paralysis (warning – avoid Goa Airport!) and even ‘made to stand up’ by a disgruntled Jamaican woman.
NO FLY ZONE
Despite these prudent mental preparations, nothing could prepare me for the experience I had last year when an airline refused to let me fly, because I was on my own. But it appears this is nothing compared to what other disabled people have been going through according to a new survey conducted by Trailblazers.
Apparently 9 out of 10 of us feel unsafe when we fly, and for good reason too. Broken wheelchairs, lost medications, health complications due to manual handling and inaccessible facilities all indicate that flying has become perhaps the most inaccessible form of public transport. Meaning many disabled people don’t fly.
Trailblazers will expose the shocking statistics they’ve uncovered to airline bosses, and in so doing, hopefully, enable us all to blaze a trail anywhere we like. So sit tight, fasten your seatbelts and please make sure your seat is the in upright position as we should all be taking off shortly. The sky should be the limit… For all of us.
See Sophie’s Channel 4 News report on air travel at sophiemorgan.com
Enable, Nov/Dec 2012