Improving air travel and making it safe for everyone
By Charles Brown / PVA National President
I’ve always seen myself as a positive person. I believe in the glass being half full, seeing the good in people and believing that things will get better as we age. I also look at each coming year as the opportunity to make things better and brighter.
So, it’s no different when I look at 2023. I see the opportunity to make our lives better and to improve on our businesses and our families. Last year proved that everything can change and get better, or we could find ourselves doing the same things over and looking for a new way to make improvements.
Going back to thinking about some of things that happened in 2022, I must admit that flying is still a danger in my life. Like many others, flying across the country is required for my job, and those of us with disabilities find that even more daunting.
I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to catch up with Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) at pva.org and read the stories about accessible air travel and some of the struggles those of us with disabilities go through. One of the biggest challenges for me is going without food and limiting the amount of fluid I drink for about 18 hours so I don’t have to use the
bathroom while in the air.
I often take direct flights no longer than four hours because I will need to use the restroom sometime, and when you add the time waiting at the gate, boarding the airplane first, waiting for
everyone to exit the airplane and waiting for my wheelchair, I’m often waiting seven hours to use the restroom. So, I do my best to balance my life and my health when I travel by air.
This seems to be a big year for PVA, as we’re finally gaining traction again and getting major changes accomplished with accessible air travel. Late in the year, I went to Seattle and enjoyed a conference featuring the major aircraft manufacturers, airline companies and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The unfortunate thing is that these three groups know what it takes to put a wheelchair safely on board an aircraft, but they find excuses to limit the availability. The Air Carrier Access Act passed in 1986, and it’s hard for me to say this, but I believe there have been no significant changes to accessible air travel.
You still have to be taken out of your wheelchair, put on an aisle chair, dragged through the aisles and put into the seats. The aisle chairs have gone through many iterations, but none of them are perfect. There must be a better way to do this. I believe the All Wheels Up nonprofit organization that’s advocating for safer and more dignified accessible air travel has the right mindset and the right people to accomplish this goal. But it’s going to take our political leaders to put pressure on those three industries and demand they get it done now.
I talked about seeing positive things, and the positive things I see are the people who truly want to improve air travel and make it safe for everyone. In talking to those industry experts and leaders, they do want safe, accessible air travel. I believe in 2023 there will be some significant improvements for those of us traveling with major disabilities.
I know that’s not where everything will end. Eventually, there will be safe and secure accessible air travel on every airline for everyone
who uses a wheelchair or has other disabilities. I do believe I’m seeing the positive.
I recently read something online that has me wondering — if you had $86,400 in the bank and someone stole $60 out of your account, would you waste $86,340 to track him or her down and get back $60? No. You’d write that off, move forward and continue improving your life with the money you have.
There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Why do we let someone steal a minute of our day, then spend the rest of our day trying to get it back?
If someone has done something to harm you, find the positive and move forward. Let’s make 2023 a better year. Every day should be about using those 86,400 seconds to the positive.