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Equality for the disadvantaged.

(38 Posts)
AcornFairy Sun 04-Nov-18 15:25:06

As someone who has experienced the “indignity” of being reliant on a wheelchair, Justin Levene’s rant about service at Luton airport last year touched a nerve for me. I am fortunate enough to have regained enough mobility to have been able to dispense with the use of a wheelchair. However, months of total dependence on the support of other people taught me a lot about disability and impaired mobility.

Justin Levene was cruelly deprived of independence by a freak accident. To say that I feel his pain would be crass, but I do understand his desire to regain as much of that independence as possible. What I do not understand are his expectations about the availability of disability aids. I would rather not bring up the matter of money but in reality it is very pertinent. Disability aids come at a cost.

It would be wonderful if all public places could afford the plethora of equipment on offer for those with physical disabilities, but a line needs to be drawn. If everyone who is physically disadvantaged were to be suitably provided for in public life, the burden of cost would fall upon others. Subsequently more people would become disadvantaged; financially disadvantaged. Many theatre ticket prices, for example, reflect the provision of facilities for disabled patrons and thus exclude many who would love to attend the shows but simply can’t afford to.

While I applaud Justin Levene for shining a light on disability issues, I feel that a sense of proportion is needed. AIBU to suggest that we are not all entitled to everything available? I wish sharing was a bit more fashionable.

PECS Sun 04-Nov-18 15:34:18

Life will never be fair and nor will everyone have equality even if we work very hard to try to ensure it.

Baggs Sun 04-Nov-18 15:47:16

I'd have thought all airports could supply a wheelchair.

Baggs Sun 04-Nov-18 16:01:58

Oh. Looking at various news sources, it seems Luton Airport did offer to push Levene in a standard wheelchair but he refused the offer because he felt it would be degrading and that their health and safety rule of having to strap him into the wheelchair (which rule was probably imposed on them so not their fault) would give him a pressure sore.

I can understand his being annoyed but dragging himself along for "hundreds of metres" and then suing the airport does rather look like a publicity stunt. Who knows, maybe it will result in airports like Luton being better prepared for such eventualities, in which case he'll have potentially helped others.

Baggs Sun 04-Nov-18 16:02:30

Can standard wheelchairs not be self-propelled?

Baggs Sun 04-Nov-18 16:03:57

I don't think the issue is equality. I think the story is about incompetence.

Jane10 Sun 04-Nov-18 16:11:03

I've only ever had fantastic service and support at airports when I was pretty immobilised after knee op. Full marks to Edinburgh, Schipol, Charles de Gaulle and Cape Town airports. Wheelchairs and people to push, special transport within airports etc. I wasn't aware of being 'strapped in' to any greater extent than a car seat belt. Disabled toilets also OK. No complaints here.

Jane10 Sun 04-Nov-18 16:12:10

Also the people involved were friendly yet professional. I wasn't made to feel uncomfortable in any way.

PECS Sun 04-Nov-18 16:13:12

I think sometimes it takes a dramatic gesture to get a message across.
I have no medical expertise at all but not sure how a strap would give a pressure sore over a short period unless of course the person concerned had a particular skin/tissue condition. Anyone able to explain to me?

PECS Sun 04-Nov-18 16:15:08

Is the argument that the person with mobility difficulties should be able to manage their own transport and not be reliant on a person to push them?

Baggs Sun 04-Nov-18 16:28:29

I think self-mobility might well have been the argument in this case, pecs, and I can sympathise with that desire if that's what it was for Levene. Trouble is, I expect there's another H&S rule restricting individuals using an airport wheelchair by themselves.

The dramatic gesture idea to get a message across is powerful too.

I think Levene was just, understandably, bloody annoyed and wanted to show it.

FlexibleFriend Sun 04-Nov-18 17:06:16

I'm a wheelchair user and tbh I think it was a publicity stunt. He claims being pushed in a wheelchair would have made him feel humiliated and degraded as he's worked so hard to maintain his independence. Well so have I but unlike him I wouldn't be able to drag myself through the airport on my arms but nor would I feel humiliated and degraded by being pushed. Personally i'd find it worse to sit on a luggage trolley which he appeared to have no problem with. I think he was trying to make a point just not sure what the point was if I'm honest.

Jane10 Sun 04-Nov-18 17:12:56

I agree Flexiblefriend. I don't think this stunt helped at all. I feel sorry for the airport staff.
DH pointed out that no-one exactly finds airports terrific places!

Luckygirl Sun 04-Nov-18 17:24:35

Everyone, disabled or not, has to compromise sometimes and use common sense. There was no way he was going to get a pressure sore in a belted wheelchair for 5 minutes going across the airport.

If he felt strongly that the airport should acquire some self-propelling wheelchairs then he could have written to them afterwards and made his case.

I think he was making a silly fuss.

Nonnie Sun 04-Nov-18 17:26:12

I'd also like to know if one can get a pressure sore that quickly.

After a broken ankle I had to be pushed round 2 airports and was just glad there was someone to do it! On another occasion (yes, I know I shouldn't make a habit of breaking ankles!) we were issued with a wheelchair and DH had to push it but, again, it never occurred to me to be other than grateful. In order to get on the plane I was put into what I think are called cherry pickers and hoisted up to the top of the stairs!

People who need assistance generally have to wait until everyone else has disembarked, it that another way to make them feel humiliated?

FarNorth Sun 04-Nov-18 17:31:39

They usually get on first, tho, Nonnie.

aggie Sun 04-Nov-18 17:32:46

was the point not the provision of self propelled chair , but that his own chair had been mislaid by the airline ?

Elegran Sun 04-Nov-18 17:34:50

"People who need assistance generally have to wait until everyone else has disembarked . ." but to compensate for that, they generally embark first, or at least DH and I did when he needed assistance and a wheelchair. At the start and finish of the journey, they can settle into their seat before others are crowding in and leave it after others have crowded out. That is practical and efficient.

aggie Sun 04-Nov-18 17:36:58

I have been on that "cherry picker ! and in the door on the otherside from ambulant passengers ! then left to be hoisted out ! thank goodness I am now able to walk and use the stairs . I found Belfast International was the most humane assistance provider . Edinburgh was the worst , so much so that I am chary of flights to Edinburgh now

POGS Sun 04-Nov-18 18:00:10

If the facts reported are indeed factual I think this is a non starter story for me and is not an equalities issue .

Justin Levene was quite rightly annoyed that his customised self propelling wheelchair was left behind at an airport , very poor service.

However to choose to scoot along the floor rather than accept the wheelchair assistance offered by the Luton Airport staff could have caused more danger to his body than the ' possibility' of getting a pressure sore. I have never seen or been offered a motorised wheelchair at any airport at home or abroad so asking for one and one not being available is of no surprise to me. If Luton Airpirt has no motorised wheelchairs or buggies what could they do?

As for his comment

" I've worked very hard for a number of years to try and maintain all of my independence,” he said, adding that being in one of the chairs he was offered would make him feel “humiliated and degraded”.

I can honestly say as a wheelchair user at airports if that was my feeling I would never travel but I am very greatful for the availability of a wheelchair , the courtesy I have received from airport staff both here and abroad. I must say I have never been asked to ' strap in ' and I do wonder about that aspect of the story.

Jane10 Sun 04-Nov-18 18:06:29

I'm amazed aggie. I had a great experience at Edinburgh Airport. Such kind efficient staff at the airport assistance dept. You were very unlucky.

PECS Sun 04-Nov-18 18:39:15

There are other stories of airlines losing wheel chairs and not being well prepared to manage the needs of some disabled passengers. Frank Gardner has been stranded on planes, more than once, because his chair has got mislaid, and been left waiting on a plane for over an hour to disembark!

None of us want to be treated as less important than any other passenger and our physical disability should be minimised by thoughtful management and organisation.

It seems Luton airport was not equipped well enough to manage Levene's needs particularly once his own wheelchair was mislaid.
All of us have had to make compromises and it might be that other passengers, in a similar position, would have accepted being pushed in a wheelchair. I am not disabled so do not know what my response would be.
One could argue that propelling himself on the floor and using the luggage trolley was as likely to have caused injury/sores and been as undignified as much as having to strap into a pushed wheelchair. He should not have been put in that position in the first place.

Hopefully, going forward , all British airports will have a range of wheelchairs/scooters available for any disabled person travelling. Hopefully too airlines will be more efficient and work out how not to regularly lose passenger's wheelchairs hmm

M0nica Sun 04-Nov-18 18:55:30

Now and again all of us need some help, and now and again all of us suffer from the problems when the system breaks down.

If this gentleman wants to be as fully integrated into ordinary life as he says, he would have accepted that his wheelchair should not have been lost - and followed that up with the airline and then done what fit people do when their suitcase is lost, moan and groan, but accept that the best thing to do, is deal with it as best you can. In his case accept being pushed across the concourse in a wheelchair that needs to be pushed and wearing a seat belt.

What he has done is shout loudly about his determination to be independent - and then protested when he is expected to behave like an independent person when something goes wrong, in his case accepting being pushed across the concourse in a wheelchair pushed by an attendant. I very much doubt if a short journey like that would give him pressure sores. Anyway, he could have asked for some padding,

aggie Sun 04-Nov-18 20:49:19

Jane10 We had poor service in Edinburgh twice , first time they put me in a wheelchair in a holding pen ! then forgot me ! nearly missed the plane . Second time , this year we were held in a shed outside the airport , my DD actually ended up taking me through to the airport and then we had to meet the porter to wheel me to the security when I had to walk through the scanner , then was abandoned again till he came looking for us to get to the plane , so I clambered up the stair , couldn't have managed if my DD wasn't with me . The lady behind me was left to climb up with her hand luggage till the steward saw her and went to help her . When we landed in Belfast the nice girl sent to meet me insisted on taking me right out to the carpark

trisher Sun 04-Nov-18 21:06:30

I can understand that wanting to be independent when travelling is of great importance to someone. The airline losing his chair and no other self propelling wheelchair being available. That said all of us have probably experienced poor service at airports so possibly he was being treated equally. I would have thought rather than just behaving as he did (although I suppose it got him publicity) he would have done better to accept being pushed (after all it wasn't the staff on duty who caused the problem) he would have been better being gracious to them then launching a tirade against the executives demanding that wheelchirs be carried in safe assigned places and that self powered ones are supplied at all airports.