Editor's Note

And Then, We Go On

airplane flight


Ignorance can be expressed in many ways. Some of those ways are difficult to recognize for what they truly are, because they can look like something entirely reasonable at first.

Take, for example, a person being removed from an airplane flight because he has a disability.

I’ve read about these situations: A flight attendant or a pilot sees that the manifest includes someone with a disability. Perhaps the disability is quite visible, or it comes more into focus during pre-boarding. What happens next?

Usually, nothing. Passengers board, the flight takes off, it lands as scheduled.

But sometimes, an airlines employee gets nervous: How will that passenger manage on the plane? Will he have difficulties mid flight? What happens if the plane needs to be evacuated in an emergency?

Emergencies of that severity almost never happen. But when fear and ignorance take over, rational thinking takes a back seat. The one-in-a-million possibility of an emergency might be just the reasoning that an apprehensive or harried airlines employee is looking for. Wham! The passenger with the visible disability is kicked off the flight.

To the uninformed, that employee’s concern almost sounds reasonable. But for every passenger with a visible disability, how many other passengers have invisible disabilities or medical conditions? On an average flight, how many passengers have heart conditions, known or unknown? How many have arthritis, have “bad” knees or hips, or are obese? How many take multiple medications? What if they have a medical issue in mid flight?

People with invisible medical conditions fly unaccosted. People with visible disabilities, though, can seemingly be removed on a whim.

That’s discrimination.

If we decide that people with disabilities must be grounded, where else will be off limits? Trains, buses, cars? Buildings more than a single story high? Should they not go to school, to work, to houses of worship, to movie theaters or grocery stores in case a fire alarm goes off?

Should they just not go anywhere at all? Because that’s where “for their own safety” ignorance would lead us.

Safety is important, and we should be responsible. We should have exit plans from hotels, fire drills in schools, and standards when wheelchairs are used as seating in motor vehicles.

We should do our best, and then we should live our lives, while understanding that the world is unpredictable and that we cannot plan for every meteor-hitting-the-earth contingency. We know we cannot control every single thing or every variation of what could happen.

Still, we refuse to let ignorance and fear dictate our actions. We go on. Because the alternative is much worse.

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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