Image is of a gold coloured, standard T-handle walking stick

Over COVID? Me too! Its been over two years and the dastardly little bug wont go away. It’s locked us down, separated us, made us sick, killed us and it’s destroyed economies the world over. To the end of last year Governments decided that they were no longer going to be held hostage by this little bug and opened up. Freedoms returned and we all go to travel again. We all got to fly interstate or overseas. And weren’t we happy!!

We hoped that COVID would have gone by now. Alas, no! We are currently confronting the third wave of Omicron and people are dying again. Who knows? Mandates and lock downs might return. In the meantime we continue to travel and fly. Now, we not only have to fear COVID but if we are flying, we fear being JOYCED.

JOYCED is a term that was coined to describe the chaos that flyers are experiencing as demand for flights increases. Essentially the term is taking the piss out of Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce. Unfortunately, the efficiency of airlines has taken a hit since COVID. Flights are frequently cancelled, baggage has gone missing, processing passengers is taking ages. Consequently, people need to be at the airport very, very early to make sure they get to their gate on time.

Much of this is because the airlines are under-staffed. People are sick with COVID, forced to isolate and cant come to work. The result of this under-staffing is unbridled chaos. Instead of acknowledging these very real issues of under-staffing Joyce made the mistake of blaming passengers for the delays. Apparently, we were all out of practice for catching planes and this is the main cause of the delays. Passengers didn’t take to kindly to being blamed for things out of their control so decided that they would blame Joyce. Hence, when things go arse up at the airport, flights are cancelled or baggage is lost, passengers have been JOYCED!

People with a disability are also being JOYCED. Unfortunately, the consequences for being JOYCED if you have a disability can be quite severe. My dear friend Liz represented Australia at a recent United Nations disability gathering in America. Liz is a wheelchair user. On her journey to New York she endured two broken planes meaning they had to book her other flights. She had connecting flights cancelled mid-flight causing extreme delays. This led to overnight stays in strange places and re-bookings that saw her finally land at her destiny. Only for her baggage to go missing! It remained missing for over a week.

For a person with a disability this can be catastrophic. In Liz’s case all her chargers for her wheelchair were in the baggage. All her medications were in her bag causing her extreme health challenges that led her to having to go to ER in New York. She had been promised that her bags would be returned soon, yet by the day of her leaving, more than a week later, they had not arrived. Naturally, she was greatly inconvenienced and stressed. That’s what being JOYCED entails … ( Do note, it wasn’t all Qantas’ fault, however, for the sake of the narrative we will blame them 😀 )

There is a reason why many people with a disability hate flying. In these COVID riddled days they hate it even more. Before COVID it was bad enough. No more than two people with a disability per flight. Valuable mobility equipment damaged by baggage handlers. People with disability being denied access to a flight because they were seen as a risk. Famously, Kurt Fearnley crawled through an airport because airlines refused to allow him to use his own wheelchair and he refused the “Standard” trolley like chairs that they insisted he use.

Recently former Disability Commissioner, Graeme Innes, was humiliated by airport security, They refused to let his guide dog go through X-ray machine. Apart from that they treated him like a child and with immense disrespect. So upset was Innes that he is now seeking damages.

In these COVID days, any delays can be a disaster I got VIRGINNED recently (We cant blame poor Alan for everything.) I couldn’t get through security. I had just had a hip replacement and the new fangled metal hip set of the alarm. SHIT! The security guard comes up, masked and all, and mutters something that was probably. “Go back and come through again.” I started shitting bricks because I was already running late.

Now I am Deaf, and in this case I was also physically limited. I was four weeks post-op and using a walking stick. I’m telling the security guard I cant hear him and have to lipread. He refused to remove his mask. I suggested he might like to use my Live Transcribe. He ignored me and my suggestion. What he did next was truly mind boggling.

He took away my walking stick and asked me to walk through. I asked him how I was supposed to do that. He just gestured angrily for me to walk through. So here I was, physically incapacitated and expected to walk through. So I did, very painfully and with great difficulty. Unsurprisingly the alarm went off again.

I explained to the guy about the hip operation and why the alarm was going off, but he didn’t care. He gestured at me to take my shoes off and go back. By this time I had had enough. Angrily I said,

“Look mate, I’m in pain. I have no idea what you are saying. I cant walk any further without my walking stick AND if I take my shoes off, I hope you are the one that will help me put them back on! “

He said something through his mask. I reminded him I couldn’t hear him. The fucker rolled his eyes at me and gestured at me to stay. He went and got his manager who must have told him to frisk me, and he did. Fifteen minutes or so later I was on my way. Luckily, my flight had been delayed.

And then, of course, the inflight entertainment had no captions. (I was in business class.) I mean in this day and age, where streaming companies can caption everything, you expect something as simple as captioning to exist. The food was good though, and I commend Virgin on their choice of wines. I commend them a little less on their choice of security guards. By the way, the airline steward was great too. Made communicating as easy as possible by removing his mask and even spoke into my Live Transcribe.

This is Australia today. It is 2022 and disability discrimination is rampant everywhere. Australia, particularly the airline industry, needs to do better than this.

So, if you’re non-disabled and you get JOYCED, while I empathise with you, spare a thought for what people with a disability often have to endure. It ain’t a lot of fun, I can tell you!


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