Air travel poses innumerable challenges even to the least physically challenged among us. When Sir Thomas and I fly, we add four giant legs to the already crammed space called Leg Room (which is tight with my two legs). Delays, angst, discomfort all add to the stress of flying.
So it’s safe to say that stress was on board the USAir flight that is in the news regarding the blind passenger and his service dog.
Blind-man-with-service-dog causes one to, well, look. Whether it’s blindness, chronic disease, birth defect, mental illness, baggage or botched surgery, we’re all dealing with something that places us just this side of normal. My ‘something’ happens to show in the way I walk. Add a handsome, four-legged cane to the scene and we, well, we make for quite a scene. People look. They watch, comment: “Beautiful dog” or “What’s he do?” or “Are you training him?”
Even though the remarks are typically positive, they remain as judgments, others’ perceptions on something they catch a glimpse of but don’t know of the daily, hourly, moment-to-moment details. Those are private, yet it can be difficult to maintain a sense of privacy on the walkway of public places, especially while being eyed, judged.
It’s even harder in those public places that are disguised as personal space such as an airline seat. USAir staff reportedly asked the blind passenger and his service dog to leave. As much as my stomach does a flip-flop at the notion of being escorted off a plane because my dog stretched his legs, I don’t know the details of that situation.
What I do know is that this public story touches me personally. USAir has been a positive supporter of The Service Dog Project where Sir Thomas was raised. That much I know. Regarding the rest of the story, I can relate to the cramped legs but as for details, I wasn’t there. When I am there in that public/private space, I do not want to be judged. So I will not judge this man, his dog or the airline.
Jade, very eloquently put.
Having worked for Western/Delta Air Lines for 32 years, now retired, I’ve seen the good and bad side of this situation. Having strived to see anyone traveling with any sort of challenge is treated with respect and accommodations made as seamlessly as if it were done thousands of times a day, this situation is frustrating. Clearly the nation needs to be educated about the ADA. People need to understand that the rules are as strict on the dog handler as the businesses.
Having been a “camera person” since the they went live at SDP, my appreciation for the heart and work that goes into creating these special creatures and the blessing they are to those that receive them is immense. May your life continue to be blessed and give that handsome Sir Thomas a big hug ffrom me!
Renee, I so agree that we don’t have all the details and it’s hard to judge the situation. I do appreciate what the airline has done for SDP. I can only hope that this will draw more positive learning to the uninformed about service dogs and their humans. Love to Sir Thomas!
Jade – thank you for this blog. None of us were there and we don’t know what precipitated them being escorted off the plane and even though a lot of other passengers stood with him I don’t think we should be making the airline out to be the bad guy. We were asked to post on their facebook page and I went there and saw the reaction of some people and chose not to do that — not because I don’t support SDP but because I didn’t think that Carlene would want there to be a debate. I support SDP and support dogs totally and love what you had to say.