When Cody touched down in The District of Columbia from a connecting flight in Houston, she heard words that no wheelchair user wants to hear. “I’m so sorry, but for some reason, your wheelchair never made it on the flight and was left in Houston.”
Cody, who was paralyzed at age 12 from transverse myelitis, was devastated.
“A wave of fear, panic, frustration and vulnerability came up from my stomach and beamed out through my eyes."
Cody was given a loaner wheelchair while the airline worked to figure out what had happened to her regular chair. She had no choice but to ask others for help since she was now in a chair that wasn’t customized for her body. And her independence had taken a hit.
“[Independence] is something earned after years of labor, in which the physical, mental and emotional experiences get layered on top of one another. But suddenly, I felt like that little girl again, recently paralyzed from the chest down, feeling helpless and full of fear…”
Another devastating blow
Before Cody left the airport, she received news that her wheelchair would be on board the next flight to D.C. But the call she received the next morning was filled with more bad news: her chair had arrived, but it was damaged. “The frame and back were intact, but four of the spokes were ripped out of the titanium hub.”
The airline acted quickly and connected Cody with a repair company that immediately began work on the damage. But in the meantime, ” My independence was on hold,” shares Cody. “A dose of depression began to set in, since I couldn’t get to class or roll outside to participate in daily life.”
Cody loves to travel, but this experience was a “stark reminder of why some people with disabilities will not purchase a ticket to go visit family or friends in a distant city,” she shares.
“My hope in sharing this is that the travel industry will be more aware and considerate of what adaptive and assistive devices, like wheelchairs, provide for people with disabilities."
"I wonder: If my wheelchair had a heart, blood and human flesh, would she have been treated with the same respect I receive? Instead, she was forgotten and then perhaps tossed around like baggage by the ground crew, who, for some reason, did not understand what wheelchairs represent for those like me who depend on them.”
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