This 12 year old girl knew she was different but she had accepted it gracefully until the airline strapped her to one the regular aisle seats for two hours.
Many able-bodied people take for granted that they can use their body to its full physical potential. It's why most institutions are constructed or designed to cater to them. However, for those who are disabled, there are very few commercial institutions that are able or willing to accommodate them.
And this post shared by a distraught mom on Twitter will show you how very unequal and unaccommodating the world can be. Billie Fabig, a disabled 12-year-old was made to check-in her electric chair and was then strapped to a regular aisle chair, reported the Independent UK. She was visibly upset about it and her mother Heike Fabig posted the picture of her distressed daughter who felt like the airline was “taking her legs away”.
At the time of the incident, Billie Fabig was flying to Tasmania with her mother from Sydney’s Gold Coast airport. Billie has an undiagnosed physical disability which is comparable to hereditary spastic paraplegia which is why she uses her electric wheelchair to move around.
It isn't like this is the first time the Fabigs have flown either. Both of them are frequent flyers and they had arrived early so that they would have enough time to check in and board the flight.
“We are regular travelers with Billie, so we have a fair bit of experience flying with an electric wheelchair,” wrote Heike quoted Independent UK. “We have all the necessary paperwork (such as Dangerous Goods declaration and details of the chair and battery type) ready, and always arrive two hours before departure, allowing more check-in time than the recommended minimum 90 minutes for domestic flights.”
The mother and daughter duo had reached Gold Coast Airport two hours before the flight was to depart. But they were thrown for an unpleasant loop when they reached the departure gate. Upon getting to the gate, Billie and Heike were informed that Billie was not allowed to drive her chair to the aircraft. Adding flames to the fire was the news that the staff mentioned that they did not have a lift facility to transport the disabled child to the plane.
Come again? If no #accessible tickets are available for #Tokyo2020 #paralympics there is no refund?! What do I do? Leave my #disability at home? Park the #wheelchair in the hallway?! @Paralympics @kurtfearnley pic.twitter.com/8sPON340aO— heike fabig (@heikefabig) July 3, 2019
They were increasingly insistent on keeping the electric chair behind at the check-in desk. And then came the part that truly upset Billie. She was lifted, seated on an aisle chair and then strapped in the prevent her from falling instead of a “full body wheelchair”. “Keeping in mind that we had arrived super early as a courtesy to your staff to allow a smooth check-in, this meant that Billie was in essence strapped into a chair for about two hours, as if in some type of straight jacket,” wrote the mother.
Breaking down over the inconsiderate attitude of the airlines, Billie was in tears. Heike later posted a heartbreaking photo of the little girl. She said, “In between her sobbing [Billie] said, ‘they literally just took my legs away’ and she requested that we take a photograph so that ‘people can see what it’s like because they don’t understand’.”
This is what it is like when your electric #wheelchair gets taken away and you are forced into one of those isle chairs. “They literally just took my legs away”. @SydneyAirport @JetstarAirways— heike fabig (@heikefabig) March 29, 2019
[In between tears our 12 year old wanted a picture to “show people what it’s like.”] pic.twitter.com/YthuvZtFgS
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Heike said that the airlines had done worse than just take her wheelchair away. “It’s not taking her legs away, it’s taking her independence away because the wheelchair is her legs. She's 12, she doesn't want to be strapped up and driven around, just like no 12-year-old wants to be strapped up and driven around," she said.
Third in the sack race at school sports carnival (with a little push from mum and a ribbon for the 3rd runner too) pic.twitter.com/TGpXpsakyZ— heike fabig (@heikefabig) November 25, 2013
After being notified of the incident, the airline responded that it was company policy to take away all electric wheelchairs at check-ins. "We are looking into Ms. Fabig’s and her daughter’s experience to better understand what happened. We appreciate their boarding was frustrating and the travel could have been smoother and we are in contact with Ms. Fabig about the experience,” said a spokesman of the airline to the Independent UK.