Heartbrken mother shares a photo of her differently-abled daughter who was left distraught after made to check in her electric wheelchair before boarding her flight.
It is important for services to be inclusive and sensitive to the needs of people. A recent post shared by a mother on Twitter will open your eyes to the inconsiderate nature of some of our institutions. According to the Independent, Billie Fabig, a disabled 12-year-old was made to check-in her electric chair and was strapped to a regular aisle chair. The mother Heike Fabig posted the picture of her upset daughter who felt like the airlines were “taking her legs away”.
Billie Fabig was flying to Tasmania with her mother from Sydney’s Gold Coast airport. The kid who has an undiagnosed physical disability similar to hereditary spastic paraplegia uses her electric wheelchair to move around. The girl who is a frequent flyer arrived early with her mother so as to have enough time to check in and board the flight. “We are regular travelers with Billie, so we have a fair bit of experience flying with an electric wheelchair,” wrote Heike quoted Independent. “We have all the necessary paperwork (such as Dangerous Goods declaration and details of the chair and battery type) ready, and always arrive two hours before departure, allowing more check-in time than the recommended minimum 90 minutes for domestic flights.”
This is what it is like when your electric #wheelchair gets taken away and you are forced into one of those isle chairs. “They literally just took my legs away”. @SydneyAirport @JetstarAirways— heike fabig (@heikefabig) March 29, 2019
[In between tears our 12 year old wanted a picture to “show people what it’s like.”] pic.twitter.com/YthuvZtFgS
The duo had arrived at the airport 2 hours before departure but was surprised by the events that followed. When the mother and daughter reached the departure gate, they were informed that Billie was not allowed to drive her chair to the plane. The staff informed that it did not have a lift facility to transport the disabled child to the aircraft. They insisted on leaving the electric chair behind at the check-in desk.
Forced to travel on the aisle chair, the differently-abled girl was distressed by the attitude of the airlines. The kid was strapped on to a chair to prevent her from falling instead of a “full body wheelchair”.
“Keeping in mind that we had arrived super early as a courtesy to your staff to allow a smooth check-in, this meant that Billie was in essence strapped into a chair for about two hours, as if in some type of straight jacket,” wrote the mother quoted Independent.
Third in the sack race at school sports carnival (with a little push from mum and a ribbon for the 3rd runner too) pic.twitter.com/TGpXpsakyZ— heike fabig (@heikefabig) November 25, 2013
Heike later shared a heartbreaking image of the girl in distress. In the caption, she wrote, “In between her sobbing [Billie] said, ‘they literally just took my legs away’ and she requested that we take a photograph so that ‘people can see what it’s like because they don’t understand’.”
In an interview with the Daily Mail, the mother said that the airlines had taken away her child's independence. “It’s not taking her legs away, it’s taking her independence away because the wheelchair is her legs. She's 12, she doesn't want to be strapped up and driven around, just like no 12-year-old wants to be strapped up and driven around," said the mother to Daily Mail.
Come again? If no #accessible tickets are available for #Tokyo2020 #paralympics there is no refund?! What do I do? Leave my #disability at home? Park the #wheelchair in the hallway?! @Paralympics @kurtfearnley pic.twitter.com/8sPON340aO— heike fabig (@heikefabig) July 3, 2019
The airline that responded to the incident saying that it had a policy of taking away all electric wheelchairs at check-ins. "We are looking into Ms. Fabig’s and her daughter’s experience to better understand what happened. We appreciate their boarding was frustrating and the travel could have been smoother and we are in contact with Ms. Fabig about the experience,” said a spokesman of the airline to the Independent.
The image, which was posted with Billie's permission has had more 3,000 comments and shares on Facebook.