Logistically, getting a wheelchair at the airport is easier than I’d first imagined. Pretty much, I just ask the curbside skycap or the ticket agent for a wheelchair, and I get one. Plus a place to sit until it arrives. And in the chair with my attendant, I get to skip to the front of the security line and board the plane first as a “passenger who needs a little bit of extra time on the jetway.”
No airport staff member has ever asked me to prove my disability. No one has ever refused me a wheelchair, despite the fact that I’m a young-looking 35-year-old and I “don’t look sick.” Not a single passenger at the airport has ever pointed at me and screeched “what are you doing cutting in line–you’re not really sick or disabled!”
Poof! Easiest thing in the world, right? Wrong. At least in my case.
For me, the pesky emotional component of asking for the wheelchair took me years to get over. I was a competitive gymnast, a martial artist, a four-day-a-week gym rat. I’m not *really* disabled–I’m not paralyzed or 90 years old, my leg isn’t broken, I don’t have lupus or MS. I don’t deserve to use a wheelchair. Just because I sometimes have to fight not to collapse in the security line, and I have to sit and rest for 15 minutes after going through the metal detector, doesn’t mean I’m disabled to the point of being unable to go through an airport.
Oh. Er, uh…right. Hm.
My truth is that I sometimes need a wheelchair to manage in airports. Even though I can walk, and often enjoy gentle hiking and strolling while I’m traveling, airports are hard. They’re stressful and big, and the lines can be atrocious. And lines hurt me, literally. So I get the wheelchair. And I have a better trip.