When talking about accessible air travel we often focus on building and airplane accessibility. While this is important, it is far from enough to make air travel an experience for all.
Airlines and airports are not abstract entities; they are companies made and run by people. Like in every hierarchical structure, it is crucial the top is in cultural sync with the rest of the organization.
Is this always the case? Not always, it would seem. British Airways Chairman and CEO is an example that comes to mind.
In a recent interview, he said the food for purchase program BA launched on short flights is going very well. "It's going great. Customers say to us: 'Finally, I have good choices. No more chicken or beef'," he said.
I’ve been a frequent flyer since I was seven years old, and I will turn 53 in a few months. Chicken or beef on short flights? This may have been an option up to 20 years ago, certainly not in recent times.
This kind of disconnect from reality is alarming. If the head is too far up in the clouds, chances are the limbs will not work well.
Keep this example in mind, as it will become useful later.
So, what’s the secret for truly accessible air travel? It is beyond simple, it’s a matter of pinpointing problems where they actually reside.
For the sake of argument, allow me to introduce you to John. He is a 29-year-old who uses a wheelchair to go about his daily routine.
By convention, he is referred to as a disabled person. That’s the mother of all mistakes. John is a person like you or me who every now and then finds himself in a disabling environment.
This is not political correctness or sugar coating. It’s the environment the disabling element, it’s the environment that needs fixing.
How simple is that? To make air travel, and any other form of transport fully accessible we must stop looking at people for their shortfalls, and instead look at the environment as something that must be available to use for everyone.
This applies to a sidewalk, an elevator, an escalator, an airplane. Every infrastructure should be available to everyone. If not, it is a disabling element that requires fixing.
Mind you, I’m not talking about compliance with accessibility rules. That’s petty. The day we stop thinking of individuals as disabled and we focus on the disabling environment will be the day we will greatly exceed any legal requirement.
So why the example of Alex Cruz? If we want things to change, we must make sure the powers that be are on the ball so that the entire structure is coordinated.
There is no room for disconnection from reality because it’s reality we need to change.