I used to travel a lot. So, I have seen a lot of different accessibility accommodations and a lack thereof.
One time, on a trip from Vancouver to Montreal, I got stuck at the airport. I was travelling with a friend. And there ended up being a connecting flight in Toronto. But the plane was too small, and her wheelchair didn't fit through the door. She had paid for her ticket and I paid for mine. So, the only solution the airline could offer us was a hotel room in Toronto. But my friend hadn’t planned on a layover. She was trying to get home to take care of her elderly mother. So, she had to scramble to try to find neighbours and friends who could help in her absence.
In my opinion, airlines need to make sure that the small aircrafts are just as accessible as the larger ones. Make sure that the door is wide enough for a wheelchair and other mobility aids.
Another time, also in Toronto, the only assistance that the staff was able to provide me with was a wheelchair. This was many years ago, and I could walk just fine. But if you asked to be accompanied, you had to sit in a chair. That was the policy. Even though it felt unnecessary for me and my needs, I complied. I have a visual impairment, so the one good thing about it was that someone else was doing the seeing and navigating for me. But that was an accidental advantage because the accommodation wasn’t created with visual disabilities in mind.
And what I find interesting is that the accommodations in the airport are determined by workers somewhere in the company. They discuss what kinds of supports customers might need, and then they make policies. And most of them are still geared toward mobility. But for people like me, with multiple needs, accommodations are missed, or they don’t work effectively. So, we’re left out, or we slip through the cracks.
For example, check-in is getting more difficult because of the self-service kiosks that they have at the airport. Every time that I get close to these things, I get so scared because they are tremendously difficult for me. Everything is in very small print, from the text on the screen, to my passport, and even my ticket information. And you can use your phone for your boarding pass, but the big, intense, neon lights in the airport cause glare and contrast issues. So, it’s still hard to see.
Ideally, I would like the kiosk screens to be made a lot larger. But other travellers might find that to be an issue of confidentiality. So, maybe the airlines could compromise, and have something similar to the banks. They could put a metal barrier around the keyboards to stop other people from seeing our information.
If the airline trained or hired more staff to work specifically in providing support, it would also make things a lot easier. I always call before my flight to make sure that the airline knows I'm a visually impaired person and that I will need assistance. But I often have the staff tell me when I check in that my request isn’t on file. So, what happens is that they have me wait off to the side while they try to find someone to help me. It’s stressful because everything in the airport is on a tight schedule. And finding support staff usually takes a while. You don’t want to miss your flight because of a misunderstanding. So, having designated staff members readily available to help would be great.