Getting Ready to Fly….

I’m about to leave for Oakland, CA where I’ll be reading at the Queer Memoir salon and presenting a workshop on fat bodies and popular culture. I’m incredibly excited, not to mention I’ll be in California!! Drummer is all packed and ready to go, his kibble is in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and we even have a Kong and peanut butter for those long hours where he’ll be in the hotel room and I’ll be gallivanting about.

Getting ready to board a plane is such a conflicting emotional roller-coaster for me. There’s a bevy of reports of certain airlines discriminating against people with disabilities. I had a terrible experience in 2008 flying back from CA with my newly minted guide dog on United Airlines. I triple check my luggage to ensure TSA regulations are followed and print out 14 CFR Part 382 of the US Department of Transportation policies outlining the rules of traveling while disabled. I pack extra underwear. I remember a back-up white cane. I breathe.

Inevitably though, something will happen. The first time I flew with a cane I had a TSA employee claim he had to take my “stick” and run it through the xray machine. That violates 14CFR Part 382 – I can’t be separated from my mobility aide. I often travel alone, requiring assistance through the airport to find my gate. I’ve been left at check-in for a half hour waiting for assistance, been left at the security point to fend for myself, had the helper-person stop to talk to his buddy for a good 10 minutes, been directed to a bathroom when asked to be taken out to relieve my dog, etc. And of course every time Drum goes through security he gets padded down – even if he’s out of harness and wearing a metal-free collar/leash.

Granted my experiences are mine alone (as I should say for this entire blog) but they aren’t unique to my experience. Flying while disabled can be incredibly empowering (and fun!) and it can be dehumanizing and frustrating. It’s in how we empower and educate ourselves as PWD and how far we’re willing to educate that goes a long way into making our experiences less negative.

Not to say airlines…cough United cough….don’t need to shape up and do the right thing. But printing out policy and gearing my loins for confrontation can’t hurt.

Also I got my hair cut. I look extra queer. We are so ready!!

big black lab sitting in front of a crouching me with short hair and a purple shirt

we have to do a whole day of work before we can leave!!


4 responses to “Getting Ready to Fly….

  1. Hi,
    I like your blogs.
    I live in Oakland and I’m going to NOLOSE this weekend. I am legally Blind myself. I also use a wheelchair because I’m an amputee, left leg jst above the knee.

    I hope to meet you and Drummer to say hi this weekend. I look forward to your workshop.

    See ya soon.


  2. TSA actually can tell you that they need to put your white cane through the x-ray machine, but only AFTER they have allowed you to use it to guide yourself through the metal detectors, and only AFTER they have explicitly said that it cannot be cleared by a physical inspection (if you have requested that in lieu of the x-ray). I think giving TSA the leeway to use the x-ray is intended to let them better inspect a white cane that is not collapsible, but I also don’t know that it says that explicitly anywhere–so they probably could just insist on it simply to be assholes. But they unequivocallyDO have to let you use it to guide yourself through the detectors first. And of course they can’t ever separate you from your guide dog. (Unfortunately, they can separate people with certain mobility impairments from their aids in order to x-ray them.)

    In addition to the document you mentioned, when I fly I like to print out this, this, and this for the security screening. I also keep the phone number for Hotline for Air Travelers With Disabilities in my cell (although apparently if you have a problem outside business hours you’re on your own) and visit the websites for the AG office of whatever state I’m visiting to see if they have one-sheets I can print out about service animal access laws.

    Of course, I also just try not to fly too much if I can possibly help it.


    • Well said! I was under the impression that they couldn’t ever separate you from your device – but def not before yove gone through the detector


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