Monday, October 18, 2010

WTF: Too Disabled to Fly?

I just read an article that said Johnnie Tuitel, a guy who has already flown over 500,000 miles, is now suddenly too disabled to fly alone. Johnnie is 47, has CP and uses a power chair for mobility and lives in Grand Rapids, MI. Apparently, the gate attendant believed he would be a risk to other passengers. If he wanted to fly, he would have to buy another ticket for a “caregiver”. Evidently, he was able enough to get himself to West Palm Beach, through the airport, through security, and to his gate alone, but poor Johnnie can't fly. Why I oughta...

On the other hand, I'm not too crazy about disabled inspirational speakers; but hey, it's a living. Johnnie has trademarked himself as “America's Pioneer Handicapitalist”. [Oh, wait, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.] I would be tempted to discriminated against disabled inspirational speakers; but, that's not why Johnnie didn't fly.

Johnnie was already seated when a U.S. Airways ground attendant forced him to leave the plane, just before it left the gate from West Palm Beach Airport in Florida. He was on his way to the National Self Advocacy Conference in Kansas City to speak. He missed the gig. Two days later he took another flight, but missed his session at the conference. So, of course, he didn't get paid. Bummer, but you can expect that when you enable capitalist companies to discriminate against you.

Tuitel said: “I was raised to believe I could grow up doing what I wanted to do and it didn't lead me to any entitlement. By them denying me the ability to fly, I couldn't do my job.” More about that later. He also stated, ”Second of all, the people that made the decision are not medical doctors.”

The ground attendant's rationale: “If something were to happen, Tuitel would be unable to help himself or anyone else.” US Airways said the ground attendant had been following airline guidelines for disabled passengers.

Valerie Wunder, on behalf of US Airways said: “The airline requires that the passenger has to be physically able to assist himself or herself in the event of an emergency. If the passenger cannot, the airline requires that someone else travels with the passenger who can provide assistance in the event of an emergency.”

The Problem with Being Inspirational

Tuitel was dissed for sure. His rights were violated. He was humiliated and suffered a financial loss because of discrimination. Tuitel said he was not going to sue the airline.

Earlier in this piece I quoted Tuitel saying, “I was raised to believe I could grow up doing what I wanted to do and it [being disabled] didn't lead me to any entitlement.”

Entitlement, man, is the name of the game!

Johnnie, If you tell people to pull themselves up, work hard, be like Johnnie, you can do anything if you try hard enough; you deny the systemic discrimination that thrives in the world against people with disabilities and other minorities. You can't say, it does not exist. You cannot ignore it and strive to climb over it. It's you against society. You, as an individual, will always lose; just as you did with US Airways.

The only reason he was able to travel through an airport unescorted is because our people broke that barrier down. Every accessible place he goes to, is there because our people made it accessible for him. The only reason he is an entrepreneur, is because our people demanded the right.

The only way to overcome baseless discrimination is to demand what you are entitled to. The only way to do that is to ORGANIZE against the mainstream and demand your rights. You can't charm your way, or speak your way, or ask politely for your birthrights. You must demand them; because, baby, US Airways, or CitiBank, or McDonald's does not speak to people with disabilities best interests.

We can hope US Airways will become more disability friendly, but they won't; unless we barrage them with demands that they do. Frederick Douglass taught us well when he said, “Power concedes nothing without a fight”. To begin the barrage visit: and start complaining!

I also hope Mr. Tuitel stops being so damned inspirational and starts advocating and organizing others to demand their rights as a class of people who deserve them, instead of individuals who can achieve their rights if they try harder, on their own. His dedication to upholding capitalism, despite capitalism denying him his rights, means he's part of the problem, not a solution. We can take a lesson from the gay/lesbian community... gay marriage will happen in the US, not because capitalism said, "sure, let's do the right thing."

Second of all, if most medical doctors had to make the decision about whether or not Johnnie could fly, little Johnnie would be institutionalized.

UPDATE: 8:00 PM. U.S. Airways agrees to discuss policy changes with West Michigan man they booted off flight for being 'too disabled to fly'

Dedicated to Mike Ervin, who got me off my ass to start blogging again! Thanks Mike.


magitator said...

So glad you're writing again. The world is a better place...or, the prospect of a better world is brighter with you off the sidelines.

handicapitalist indeed. Like we need more Uncle Toms.

Holly Salsman said...

I read this article too and really couldn't believe it. Especially given the fact that he has travelled on several other occasions and there wasn't any issue before? How can you say that, after this man got all the way through EVERYTHING, including the plane, that he suddenly was unable to look after himself? I would dare say that if there actually WAS an emergency on the plane, and it went down, there would be alot of people who would find themselves unable to care for themselves.
I really liked your comments about the difference between motivational speakers and going out and taking action. I honestly had never looked at it that way before but you are right on with what you said. Change only happens in the wake of a tragedy or if enough people stand up and make it happen.

adult standing frames said...

I agree, people need to join together to ensure rights for those with disabilities - one man isn't going to change anything.

Ruth Madison said...

You are hilarious!

" Johnnie has trademarked himself as “America's Pioneer Handicapitalist”. [Oh, wait, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.] I would be tempted to discriminate against disabled inspirational speakers;"

I'm totally with you there!