At the Station

Airport to plane manuvers

Large city airports are resorting to trains, people-movers and moving sidewalks to get people around more quickly and efficiently. Some have carts that deliver physically challenged folks to their terminals/gates. Unfortunately there are never enough available of the latter even when one arrives early for their departing flight during the holidays, large groups of travelers and tour groups. Negotiating these different terminals via trains, moving walkways and around construction (there's always something being added) is confusing and a trial for sighted and hearing folks on-foot. For a physically challenged individual it is a nightmare. Finding someone to assist you in a busy airport generally lands on finding a sympathetic fellow traveler who is nice enough to help out. Why do the airlines require that we notify them that we need assistance getting to a flight if none is available during peak times? Some kind of early warning system should be in place (text, e-mail, phone call) to alert the passenger so they can make other arrangements would be helpful.


The vehicles between terminals are not always user-friendly to man and/or beast. At Dulles International Airport (DIA) I used their train to move from where my flight came in to the main terminal. The floor on the train was smooth metal and the train was jerky. My service dog nearly went down when it took off. After that I had her lay on the (very dirty) floor until we reached our stop. Some indoor-outdoor low pile carpeting would be helpful and probably easier to keep clean (vacuuming goes faster and is more efficient than mopping that leaves the surface wet and slippery). I've also experienced this same problem with elevators with smooth metal floors. I've learned to have my dog lie down on those too but in confined and crowded spaces like trains and elevators that is not always possible in a busy airport. Most folks have carry-on luggage that rolls. My dog often has to do some fancy footwork to avoid distracted travelers looking for their gate or those who are looking for someone meeting them. Baggage claim needs to have a specially designated area for people with disabilities or service personnel assigned to help them. Trying to keep my dog safe while people are shoving past you with heavy bags swinging and bumping and then on wheels is frightening. I usually have to stand back and wait until everyone is nearly gone but then there is always a flight right behind mine flashing a new flight number's arrival. Getting out of the way of the stampeding hoards is not easy when one is visually impaired and traveling alone on business with no one meeting you to help out. Once in while a skycap will be available but not always. Plus, when I am traveling on business I am not lucky enough to have an expense account so it comes out of my pocket/purse. I don't make the kind of money as a person with disabilities working as a part-time consultant generally earns compared to business execs and bureaucrats on a government travel allowance. It's budget travel all the way for us.


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Idea No. 218