My Flight Attendant Story …. A two-part story with two different perspectives: Part 2

In the last blog post, Keith told a story about his experience with a flight attendant as he was disembarking from his flight.

Keith had walked onto the plane, during the flight he got up to use the restroom unassisted, and then stood to walk off the plane. As he was approaching the gangway, a flight attendant asked if Keith needed a wheelchair. He was shocked and taken aback. He had not asked for a wheelchair prior to his flight or at check-in. Why did she ask him when he was leaving the plane?!? The instance ended with a lot of laughs. You can read more about it here.

While telling this story to Kristin (Ability Together’s Operation’s Director), she mentioned she had a very similar experience with her daughter on a flight as they left the plane. It led to a discussion about perspective. Here is her story:

Hi, it’s Kristin

Here is a little background to our similar story. My daughter has mild Cerebral palsy, like Keith, along with a few other diagnoses. When we fly, prior to our departure date or upon checking in for our flight, I request to have a wheelchair available for my daughter. She is able to walk but tires easily, needs breaks on long walks, and is not speedy. Airports are difficult for her. Having to rush between connecting flights is nearly impossible. When we travel, we typically do not travel with her medical stroller or wheelchair because, in most cases, she has plenty of opportunity to stop and rest as needed, except in the airport.

So, this story begins at the check-in counter. We were checking in for a flight on an airline we fly frequently. I requested a wheelchair and let the agent know that we did not need someone to push her to the gate. We go through security. Arrive at our gate. We remind the counter agent that we’ll need a wheelchair upon arrival (because there is ALWAYS a delay or other excuse why there is a delay upon landing) and turn in the wheelchair she was using, as she can walk down the gangway and to her seat. Since she does need extra time to get settled, we board during the pre-boarding window.

My daughter is very personable and knows no stranger. She says hi to the pilots, the flight attendants, and everyone that she passes on her way to her seat. At some point during the flight, she gets up without assistance to use the restroom and then returns to her seat after having a conversation with the flight attendants and requesting more snacks.

When the flight ends, we all get up to deplane. As we’re walking to the gangway, the flight attendant asks if my daughter would like a wheelchair – there is one waiting. While she exclaimed, “Yes, please!,” another attendant looked confused. Her face said, “Why would she need a wheelchair?” But, she didn’t say anything (thankfully or my Mama Bear instincts may have kicked in). 

I felt so much relief that the flight attendant asked if my daughter would like a wheelchair. And we were both so excited that we didn’t have to wait like we usually do for one to be provided. It was easy to get through the airport and leave.

Why am I sharing this story?

Well, because Keith and my daughter had nearly the same situation – preboarding, walking around, and a flight attendant asking if either of them would like a wheelchair. While Keith was shocked, my daughter was happy and relieved.

As a result of our different “stories”, Keith and I dove into what influences perspective. It is important to understand that in life, everything from the mundane to the extraordinary, shapes us in profound ways, molding our perspective and influencing our outlook on the world. It is fascinating to observe how two people can go through nearly identical experiences yet have remarkably different perspectives.  

In society, the way people view and respond to individuals with a specific or perceived disability can be complex and influences by the following: Stereotypes and Stigma, Visible vs Invisible Conditions, Personal Experiences, Media and Cultural Representations, Level of Awareness and Education, Personal Attitudes and Believes, Support System, and Intersectionality. Other factors that also influence perspectives include: Physiology, Culture, Race, Ethnicity/Regionalism, Sex Assigned at Birth and Gender, Sexualities, Abilities, Social Cognitive Abilities, and Age. 

With these societal factors, individual attitudes, and personal interactions, it is no wonder how Keith and I had conflicting perspectives on nearly identical situations. As we journey through life, it is important to be mindful of how our experiences influence our perspectives to remain receptive to the perspectives of others.

By acknowledging the power of experiences and recognizing the diverse backgrounds and influencing factors that shape our views, we can cultivate a more inclusive, empathetic, and understanding society.

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