I am leaving New York in a few hours. I will be flying alone for the first time in my life. I will be braving an inaccessible plane and inaccessible bathrooms (here’s hoping that my flight will not be delayed and that my bladder will cooperate). Air travel is not exactly known for its accessibility and respect for disabled people’s dignity. There are so many horrible stories of disabled people online. I also have my share of bad experiences.
I usually travel with family or friends. This has a huge impact when I navigate inaccessible spaces and interact with ableist people. Airport and airline personnel often talk to the people I am travelling with instead of me. Most of them are not very helpful and the people I am travelling with almost always do all the work. My wheelchair often gets damaged (but I’ve never had my wheelchair completely destroyed, unlike many disabled people). Despite all this, I love flying. Just like I love public transit. I have a thing for things that make my life complicated.
Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden said that La Guardia is the worst large airport in the United States. I guess he has never travelled using a power wheelchair.
La Guardia doesn’t scare me (but yes I hope I will have access to wifi). I have travelled in new large airports where the staff didn’t know what to do with my wheelchair and where there was no equipment to carry my wheelchair to the gate or into the plane baggage compartment.
For one of the first times in my life, I am consciously putting myself in a space where I will absolutely need assistance from people I don’t know. But I know I also have certain privileges on my side. I have Canadian citizenship. I am white. My disability is visible, which means that I won’t have to prove anything to get assistance. I speak English and French. And I know my rights.
I will let you know how my inaugural solo flight went.
Thank you New York City for showing me the best or the worst you have to offer. Many parts of you are just as ableist as Montréal. But I know that there are many people working to change that. Just like in Montréal.