I came across this article a little while ago and it irked me, as it should. It should annoy anyone reading it, because it’s ridiculous. 43 year old Sophia Warner suffers from Cerebral Palsy, and competed in the 2012 Paralympics. But this amazing UK Paralympian was left in tears after a flight she took in March because she was challenged about her disability.
She posted on Twitter about the upset it caused when staff from easyJet said “You look completely normal. Why do you need help?“ She wrote how she cried all the way home, and it’s not surprising when you’re made to feel you have to “prove” an illness/disability, especially when we’re talking about staff who are paid to help you who are the ones making you feel as though you don’t need or deserve assistance.
Such instances need to be made known and reported so that changes can be made. Following this Twitter post from Sophia gaining publicity, easyJet of course promised to look into the incident and ensure improvements are made in the future.
I think this highlights a few things :
- Anyone can have an illness / disability, whether invisible or not, can “look fine”. Any age, race, social class, job status, physical ability or gender.
- A lot of people are experiencing problems with assistance at airports and other means of public transport where those that are there to help do not treat passengers with due care, attention or respect. This needs to change.
- Being made to feel like a fraud, almost as though you’re lying and as though you have to prove you’re unwell is devastating, exhausting and upsetting. If this amazing lady, who has won medals at Birmingham’s 1998 Paralympic World Championships, the Paralympic World Championships in New Zealand in 2011 and London’s 2012 Paralympics can cry all the way home, you, me, and anyone else can get upset, too.
Of course, some people will have very positive experiences with the likes of transport assistance. A lot will depend on the individuals themselves, rather than being a distinct reflection of a particular company, place or provider. It’s also understandable that some justification needs to be made as to why assistance is needed, but there is a line that needs to be drawn. It’s such a shame to know that so many people still struggle so much and get treated so poorly.
I like to hope that with increasing awareness being raised, there will be less ignorance and more compassion. More people will have have a caveat formed in their thinking – You don’t have to look sick to be sick and you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to be disabled.
Have you had problems with assistance on public transport or flights, or any positive experiences to share?