Preflight Woes

I’m a hand cyclist. To travel to and from the airport with my hand cycle, driving myself and having to park, is a job. One time I traveled through Houston’s George Bush Airport, parked my car where you drop off passengers, got out, got my wheelchair out, put my hand cycle on my shoulder and pushed it to the American Airlines where you check in your bags.

If I put my hand cycle on my shoulder, I can push and drive it like a tractor, moving in the opposite direction to get it to swing and to turn. As I’m doing this, the loudspeaker says, “Do not leave your car unattended.” Well, what choice do I have? No one comes to your car at the airport. So what am I going to do? Am I going to get towed? I decided I would just have to get towed. A police officer came out and I said, “What do you want me to do? I can’t go to the parking garage, travel with this, and all of my luggage to check in. I’m just going to go right here, outdoors and check in.”

I tried to check in at the outdoor skycap, and I was told I couldn’t check in there, that I needed to go inside.

I was told I could call a TSA number and they would help me. What that TSA number does is walk me through the TSA like pre-check. I really don’t need that service because I go through pre-check with no problem.

I need somebody to help me to check in my bags. That would be helpful. They don’t have volunteers. This is pre COVID now. They don’t have anyone or a helpline to call so that you could do that, which would be very helpful. So I had to leave my car. I was afraid I was going to get it towed. A guy who worked for the airport was bringing out carts, and he offered to wait with my things while I went to park my car. The first thing they tell you at the airport is don’t leave your bags with other people.

I had my U.S. Army Veteran hat on, and he had served in the U.S. Air Force, and because he was a service member, and he saw that I was struggling, he wanted to help. It wasn’t his job. He was just showing me an act of kindness, and I trusted him. I drove away against my better judgment because I had no other choice; I had to make the plane.

He was standing there when I got back, with my luggage and my hand cycle. He walked with me inside to American Airlines to get me checked in. I thanked him and gave him $20, although he didn’t want it. I told him I was really grateful because he could have gotten in trouble for helping me because it wasn’t his job.

It’s things like that that make people with disabilities not want to travel. How can we be more independent if you don’t give us just a little bit of assistance? Just be cognizant that we need a little additional support. There are lots of things we can do. But there are just little things that we cannot do. And if we could be afforded a little grace, it would make our lives so much better.

Candice Caesar, U.S. Army Veteran, TX