Saturday, July 31, 2010

Flying with Autism. Disability Rights

Jack is at Camp this weekend, and we have just dropped Katie with friends for 24 hours so we can get to the business of packing. It appears it will be hot the entire trip, with a chance of hot and rainy. Should be interesting.
Both children have grown a lot this summer. Katie has changed shoe sizes three times since May, and Jack has changed pants by a size and a half, and shoes once. I've spent the last two weeks buying shoes for Jack, trying them on, then sending them back.
The shoes reminded me to print out a few pages from various places across the web. Technically Jack does not need to remove his shoes to go through security at the airport, nor does he need to try to walk through the metal detector without touching the sides (like a game of Operation!). There are laws which protect his right to be on the plane, and a few printouts which can serve as a buffer between me, the mama who might be upset, and an unenlightened TSA worker. We have encountered all sorts of ill-mannered security experts over the years, and for the most part, once educated, they are helpful and just trying to do their job. I have been called, loudly, and over a speaker,  "a problem" for wanting to stay with my child through the screening process. I have been chastised for not taking my child out of his wheelchair and making him walk through the screening devices, on his own, and in trouble for walking into a roped off area that they rolled my child into, not knowing that the little red rope apparently separated me as having been cleared, while he was still an unknown. I have been asked (when Jack was three), "Why can't he walk?" I wish I could have told her to call the neurologist because he didn't know either, and maybe they could chat about it. Alas, I was so distressed by the incident that I burst into tears when we were done and made Shawn get the head of security so I could suggest some sensitivity training.
I am stronger now, and the law is on our side, so my anxiety is a lot less than it used to be. As far as "official" people go, they will mostly be trained properly, and aware of the rules that are slightly bent for kids like mine. I like to have the paperwork, just in case I need to use "their" language to communicate.

You can find more information on the FAA website. They have a new document called New Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability. (opens a PDF)

One of the sections I like knowing:
Carriers must provide passage to an individual who has a disability that may affect his or her appearance or involuntary behavior, even if this disability may offend, annoy, or be an inconvenience to crew-members or other passengers.

More Links:
The home page for the Department of Transportation Air Accessibility has links to the law and some tips for travel.

Accessible Journeys offers links and summaries of the Air Carrier Accessibility act.

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