News: Blind to Blindness

Added Tuesday 25th September 2012

While the Paralympics were in full swing I was visiting Glasgow for a conference but it might have been anywhere; and it might have been any airline.

On all four occasions when I had to engage with customer services I had to resist being forced into a wheelchair just because I needed a helping arm from an escort from plane to gate and vice versa. On all four occasions I asked if my 'helpers' had seen the Paralympics and whether they had seen blind people in wheelchairs.

On both occasions, when the cabin door was opened, I was asked if I would mind being disembarked last. On both occasions I caused surprise by saying I did mind; I wanted to disembark with the rest of my row, neither first nor last. The stewards explained in pained tones that I was being unreasonable, that I must disembark last because my escort would not arrive at the gate until everyone else was off. My observation that this was ingrained practice to enforce discrimination was met with pained incomprehension.

On the flight from Glasgow to Gatwick I checked in at 12:10 for take-off at 14:10 but it crossed nobody's mind to ask if I might want lunch. I was left in a disability compound out of reach of shops, bars, restaurants, toilets and flight information. Those paid to take care of me were blind to my blindness.