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20 Things Airport Workers Need to Learn About People With Chronic Illness

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Traveling can be stressful, especially with a chronic illness. Incidents, like when a teen was told that her diabetes medication “could crash the plane” at Manchester airport, show us airports need to become more accommodating.

This teen had documentation that stated that she had to have her medication on her, but an airport worker still told the teen that it would be her medication’s fault if the plane crashed. Unfortunately, this incident is just another case of many where people with chronic illness are let down constantly by airports. I remember a few years ago being pressured to move out of an aisle seat, and people on the airplane did not take me seriously when I explained how much pain was in.

We asked The Mighty community to share one thing airport staff should know about people with chronic illnesses. Here are 20 responses from community members about what they think airport staff should know about how they can better treat people with chronic illnesses. Let us know if any of these comments resonate with you or your own thoughts.

  1. Don’t rush us! I’m moving as fast as I can.” – Amy B.
  2. “We’re not trying to be difficult, or make your jobs more difficult.” – Jennifer E.
  3. “Just because my disability and health issues aren’t always obvious doesn’t mean I’m healthy and able-bodied. My condition can change in an instant.” – Danielle D.
  4. “If I flag down one of those carts that drives passengers to their gate if it is a long walk, please take me. Don’t tell me that ‘you are young and you can walk’ and drive off.” – Elyse G.
  5. “Please allow me a seat to remove my shoes, as I can’t do it myself due to a front and back spine fusion and bilateral sacroiliac fusions.” – Heather R.
  6. “When we have a visible disability or use a mobility device and say ‘I’ve got it’ or ‘I’m good’ or any other refusal of your help, believe us. Don’t ask us four times if we’re ‘really sure.’” – Cole K.
  7. “That I know more about my disability then they do, and if I say I can’t do something, I can’t do it. I had a TSA agent fight with me when I told them I couldn’t go through the metal detector, and she kept telling me my device was safe. I have a gastric stim, and the metal detector could turn it off. I had a card that explained that.”- Amanda E.
  8. I need a wheelchair ride at the airport and early boarding. Standing and walking cause me a lot of pain, and so do the doubting looks you give me.” – Linnea S.
  9. “Just because I’m young and ‘look fine,’ doesn’t mean I’m lying about not being able to go through the metal detector.” – Shannon P.
  10. “If I’m carrying medical supplies, I need them. Airport security tried to take my medical scissors off me because they were ‘the wrong ones.’” Lizzie I.
  11. Please be gentle with wheelchair users and always ask before handling a person’s wheelchair. A TSA agent swiftly pushed and spun my wheelchair at security check causing me to lose consciousness. – Alia G.
  12. “Don’t separate me from my asthma medication during a pat down. Don’t be rude to anyone. Try to be nice to everyone. I have many other chronic illnesses. If my doctor says I need something or I can’t do something I listen to them. I didn’t ask to be disabled.” – Allie L.
  13. “I shouldn’t have to ask them to put new gloves on when they check my stuff, especially my medications. I can’t risk getting sick.” – Michelle V.
  14. “If my outsides looked like my insides you’d wheel me to the gate personally with my luggage in tow, a lollipop and a hug.” – Jodie N.
  15. “I request the aisle seat so that I can have quicker access to the restroom and a little more room to adjust, as needed. No, I don’t want the emergency row.” – Lisa B.
  16. “Please be patient. I have to take a little extra time to stand up so I don’t pass out or fall. Yes, I can walk but need something to hold on to.” – Brenda M.
  17. “Don’t touch people’s mobility aids and equipment without their consent.” – Lee C.
  18. “They call it an ‘invisible illness’ for a reason. Just because they can’t see it doesn’t mean I’m not in agony and in need of assistance. – Vanessa B.
  19. “Ask before you touch anyone. You may cause more harm than actually help. Invisible illnesses are not a joke.” – Ranya M.
  20. Don’t touch or talk to service dogs! No matter how adorable they are!” – Jenarae G.
Originally published: September 27, 2018
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