Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Fliers in wheelchairs need extra space

By McClatchy News Services


Question: I recently completed a trip from Pittsburgh to Honolulu with my 13-year-old daughter. She uses a wheelchair but does not have any learning disabilities. We travel often, and while most of our trip was, like others, uneventful, I could not get over how rude fellow travelers could be. Would it be too much trouble to publish this list of helpful actions? If only one person reads them and gains some empathy, I would be delighted.

1. Don't sit or stand in spaces marked for handicapped passengers, and if you do, please move if you see someone who may need this seat. Wheelchairs are difficult to maneuver, especially in crowded areas, such as in line at the departure gate.

2. If you see someone in a wheelchair trying to find a spot to sit at the gate, please offer up your aisle seat.

3. Be aware of your personal space, especially with heavy carry-on items, when you are around someone in a wheelchair. While you may bump a standing passenger and do little harm, your 40-pound bag is at the perfect level to knock my daughter in the face.

4. Please do not try to run in front of us to squeeze into a crowded tram or shuttle. We need a bit of room to get in and out, and our time is valuable, too.

5. Gate agents, please do not roll your eyes and insist that putting the wheelchair in the cabin closet is not allowed (know your laws). When you find out that I am, indeed, correct, please do not try to threaten or intimidate me by acting like I am asking for your kidney. My daughter's wheelchair has been damaged when it is thrown in the cargo area, and then our trip is ruined.

6. Do not assume that a wheelchair-bound person is mentally deficient. On our last trip an airline employee asked my daughter, "What is your name? Do you know?"

Thanks! I appreciate being able to share my views.

Answer: I'm more than happy to post your suggestions and thank you very much for writing in.

Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at

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