Tim George is a Communications Coordinator intern in the CCS Disability Action Auckland branch.
It can be hard to question someone in authority, especially when you feel like they are not treating you fairly. As CCS Disability Action Local Advisory Committee Chair Allyson Hamblett points out, it is important to stand up for yourself when your needs are not being met.
A regular traveller, Allyson ran into trouble when she from Auckland to Wellington for a conference using Air New Zealand.
“When I got to Auckland Domestic I asked the airport staff if I could take my walker up to the gate, and then for the walker to be put into the hold – then returned to me when arriving in Wellington.”
Allyson had done this on a previous trip overseas and was surprised when airport staff said no.
“The staff said wouldn’t a wheelchair be easier; her voice indicating what is a walker, how on earth would a walker help. I gave in and surrendered my independence and sat in the ‘Special Assistance’ area of the airport until I was taken through the gate, and onto the plane. I was met at Wellington with a wheelchair. My walker arrived safely with me. But why couldn’t I have used it?
“On disembarking I did ask why my walker couldn’t be brought up to the door of the plane. I was told that someone fell over when using a walker on the air bridge. I laughed to myself when I heard this. I have fallen over so many times because of my cerebral palsy. It’s almost as if my type of CP is too much of a health and safety risk these days.”
Following her experience, Allyson emailed Air New Zealand about what had happened and enquired about the airline’s policies concerning wheelchairs and walkers.
A month later, Allyson received a reply from a Customer Support Specialist at Air New Zealand. He confirmed there are no restrictions around the use of walking frames, and Allyson could have used it to get to the aircraft. The airline had taken her feedback on-board and would make sure that incidents like this did not happen again.
This is an important lesson for all of us. If you have any experiences like Allyson’s, consider speaking up or asking a trusted friend or support person to support you to advocate for yourself. As her story illustrates, sometimes it can’t hurt to provide a little feedback.