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Thursday, July 25, 2013

sometimes friendly, sometimes not

Blurb: It is true that an individual who is DeafBlind can fly
alone. That doesn't mean it's easy.

The first thing you need to remember is that people are different
and so are individuals who are DeafBlind. Even among those who
are not disabled, you'll find plenty of folk who won't fly
alone... or at all. Same goes for people who are DeafBlind. It's
an individual preference. Having a disability does not change
that.

I like to fly because it's fast and doesn't require help from an
SSP. I've flown in and out of Akron-Canton, Cleveland, BWI, JFK
and Philadelphia. My routine is to board the plane, tell the
flight attendant I don't want any drink or snack and then sleep
or pretend to sleep. That way no one bothers me until we land. It
was smooth flying until recently.

Some times it's good and sometimes it's not. Here's a look at two
trips from Akron to Philly and back. You'll see what I mean.

In August of last year, I flew to Philadelphia to visit a friend
and take part in the East PA Deaf-Blind group's pool party. This
was right before I moved, and I was on an independence kick. So I
hired Seniors Helping Seniors to take me to the airport.

We got a wheelchair, made it to security and reached the gate.
The driver used my DBC to communicate with me. That's when I
found out security confiscated my body creme and hair gel spray.
Gosh, darn it!

I find it difficult to deal with travel sized toiletries because
they are small and hard to identify. I planned to check that bag,
so I brought full sized products. I don't know why, but they
didn't check the bag on either trip. I could live without lotion
and hair spray, so I just let it go.

It was almost time to board. I was reading a book. My driver said
he had to leave. That was fine.

I started to wonder if my razor blades made it through security.
I checked my luggage, and they were there. Go figure.

But something was missing. I had to look through my items several
times to realize what they took -- my disposable Cochlear Implant
batteries. These are a special item you must order online. You
can't just go to a pharmacy and buy a box like you do with
hearing aid batteries. Without the batteries, my cochlear
implants don't work. Without my CI's, I'm totally blind and stone
deaf. That's when I lost it.

There I was, the warrior, Ms. Experienced DB Traveler, reduced to
tears. I was in an awful panic attack and cried during most of
the flight. It scared me to think I'd be spending several days in
a strange place with no sound. I can't hear much, but what I do
hear is totally precious. I'm lost with out it.

When we got to Philly, they put me on this cart contraption with
two wheelchair seats in front. I was not thinking well at all. We
got to baggage claim, even through I had no baggage to pick up.
That's when I realized my bags were missing. The airport staff
person kept talking to me. I didn't understand. I was getting
more and more aggravated by the second.

By this point, the wheelchair cart was gone. I was standing,
which makes communication harder. I showed the woman how to do
print-on-palm, but she wouldn't try it. I finally insisted on a
seat. "Sit, sit... I must sit in a chair!"

Once I could sit, I instructed the woman on how to use my DBC.
She had no problem with this system. She told me she'd have to go
looking for my bags. I was left alone in a chair at that gigantic
airport.

Where was my friend? Good question. He was waiting at a baggage
claim on the other side of the airport. He found me before the
staff person came back. Eventually, we located my bags and could
leave.

I had a nice visit with my friend. He has a CI and had some
disposable batteries I could use. Thankfully, everything was
fine on the return trip.

I went back last week for another visit and another pool party.
My friend was worried about the batteries. He wanted to buy some
just in case. I wouldn't tell him what kind I use. I was going to
mail him some but never got around to it. So he ordered batteries
and paid for over night shipping. Why didn't I just let him do
that weeks ago?

I was worried about a more recent habit of airlines refusing to
let DeafBlind Individuals fly alone. CoCo, who is a motivational
speaker and has travelled on over 1,000 flights all around the
world was kicked off a flight in Canada. During that same week,
two DeafBlind people in Florida were not permitted to board the
plane that would take them to Deaf-Blind Camp of Maryland. What
is going on here?

When in doubt, bring your daddy. My father's rule is clear: No
one messes with his daughter.

With my parents' aid, I made it through security with no trouble.
They checked the bag with my batteries and took nothing from my
carry-on.

My flight was delayed, but that happens often enough. We hit a
big "uh-oh" when it was time to board. I had to climb up stairs
to get onto the plane. I can do that. But they wouldn't let me
hold onto a rail. One person pulled my arms from in front of me,
while the other pushed from behind. People are not as sturdy or
stable as a rail. I was wobbling all over the place. They didn't
listen when I asked to hold onto the rail. I thought we'd all
fall.

It was a relief to get on the plane and sit down. I was day
dreaming a bit when a staff member, who sat beside me, started
talking about the air unit and other stuff. It took my brain a
few minutes to realize the woman was fingerspelling. They had a
staff member who could sign sit with me. That was awesome!

I made it into a wheelchair with my crutch and backpack. We got
to baggage claim, where I found my friend but not my bag. Another
search party was sent out, just like last year.

Good visit. Good party. Very, very good!

Getting back home wasn't going to be easy. We were stuck at
check-in. My friend had requested handicapped assistance, but
there was no wheelchair or staff person in sight. Philly is a
huge airport. I couldn't possibly walk to the gate. Argh!

Time was passing. I was still sitting. My friend and his father
decided to take me on their own. They had located a wheelchair.
We would all need to go through security.

I passed my pat dow and lost nothing from my bag. My friend had
to take off his shoes, but he managed to hobble through okay,
although he did lose his pocket knife. It all went wrong with
"Pops." His artificial knees kept setting off alarms. They
finally did a pat down and used a wand over his knees.

Now it was a race for time. Wee sped through the airport as fast
as our strange little group could. People were already boarding
the plane. The flight attendant grabbed my chair and started down
the tunnel. My friend called her back so he could say good bye.

Nothing major happened on the way back. We found my parents and
luggage just fine in Akron. The insanity was over.

You must be thinking, "That's crazy! How can she put herself
through all that?"

That's simple -- because I am crazy, and I want to be able to
travel. I'm already planning my next trip to Philadelphia. Wish
me luck.

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