Q: I recently completed a trip from Pittsburgh to Honolulu with my 13-year-old daughter. She uses a wheelchair but does not have any learning disabilities. We travel often, and while most of our trip was, like others, uneventful, I could not get over how rude fellow travelers could be. Would it be too much trouble to publish this list of helpful actions? If only one person reads them and gains some empathy, I would be delighted.
1. Don't sit or stand in spaces clearly marked for handicapped passengers, and if you do, please move if you see someone who may need this seat. Wheelchairs are difficult to maneuver, especially in crowded areas, such as lining up at the gate for departure.
2. If you see someone in a wheelchair trying to find a spot to sit at the gate, please offer up your aisle seat. So many folks won't, and it is hard to fit a wheelchair into the already crowded aisles.
3. Be aware of your personal space, especially with heavy carry-on items, when you are around someone in a wheelchair. While you may bump a standing passenger and do little harm, your 40-pound bag is at the perfect level to knock my daughter in the face.
4. Please do not try to run in front of us to squeeze into a crowded tram or shuttle. We need a bit of room to get in and out, and our time is valuable, too.
5. Gate agents, please do not roll your eyes and insist that putting the wheelchair in the cabin closet is not allowed (know your laws). When you find out that I am, indeed, correct, please do not try to threaten or intimidate me by acting like I am asking for your kidney. My daughter's wheelchair has been damaged when it is thrown in the cargo area, and then our trip is ruined. It is not easy to find a new pediatric wheelchair in a strange location (or at home, for that matter). Imagine that this is your family member, and your trip, and what would happen if you were in a strange city with a child who cannot walk.
6. Do not assume that a person who uses a wheelchair is mentally deficient. On our last trip, an airline employee asked my daughter, "What is your name? Do you know?" She probably reads at a higher level than he does.
Many thanks! I appreciate the opportunity to share my views.
A: I'm more than happy to post your suggestions and thank you very much for writing in. All of this is fantastic advice. But I simply have to say, I can't believe the airline employee in No. 6. What. A. Jerk. He's definitely on my list of Rudest People of 2013.travel
Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin@deartripadvisortripadvisor.com.