Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Felt Up and Tied Down: The Thrills of Flying the Friendly Skies with a Mobility Impairment

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by at 7:25 pm on Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This year I have had the pleasure of flying to Chicago, Washington DC, Vegas, and, in a few weeks, Honolulu, which has lead to a barrage of frequently asked questions, “How do you fly? Do you take your scooter? Do you remain in it on the plane?”

Here’s my lengthy response:

Going through airport security is the hairiest part of the trip, which I’m sure it is for hundreds of thousands fellow passengers, too. Being in an electric scooter, I get to bypass the standard metal detectors – to avoid setting off all kinds of alarms.

Going through a wider opening, I’m told to where to stop and wait for a female security personnel to come over. Knowing what is coming next, I swallow my sense of personal space and dignity, hold out my arms and smile. The woman in rubber gloves proceeds to thorough feel me up: along my arms, down my neck, back and sides, down my legs and inner thighs, under my butt and around my boobs. And that was before the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new procedures…I can hardly wait to experience the enhanced TSA pat-down and feel up! What more is there to be patted down?

The thing that really disturbs me is, while having my personal space invaded and my scooter being swabbed, that all of my belongings are sitting unattended on the the scanner conveyor belt – available for anyone to grab and walk off with – my money, my travel information, my iPad, everything.

At the O’Hare airport in Chicago, I undergo the pat-down in a glass-walled room. One time the woman even took off the small, traveler’s pouch I had around my neck. In that moment, I had no ID, no money, no personal information, no communication device. I felt completely vulnerable.

Having survived security and with the worst over, I now breathe a sigh of relief and  head for the boarding gate…

Typically, I can drive my scooter right to the plane’s door before sending up a little prayer, Please return my “legs” in usable condition. Airline ground crew then takes my scooter and stores in the bowels of the plane with the rest of the baggage.

Meanwhile I’m triple-strapped onto an aisle chair – a skinny chair on wheels, very much like a furniture dolly. All tied down and unable to move, I feel like Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.

Glenda being strapped onto an aisle chair

Glenda on aisle chair being wheeled on board the plane

With my arms crossed in from me, an airline staff member tilts back the chair and wheels me on board. Going down the aisle, if thighs are overhanging, it’s an instant weight loss program!

Having made it this far on my journey, I can now sit back and relax. An adult beverage would be most welcomed; however, my scooter is now stored below and I will not have free access to a washroom until we land, my scooter is brought up and I’m deplaned, last. Longer flights with a middle-aged bladder are definitely water torture!

On the flight home from DC this summer, desperation was near. I got the flight attendant’s attention and said I needed to go to the bathroom. Much to my relief, that plane had onboard wheelchair – very much like the aisle chair, but collapsible to stow in a small compartment.

Of course, using the thing provided entertainment for the other passengers, but I didn’t it care. The flight attendant wheeled me to the tiny bathroom. I stood up, he moved the chair out and closed the door. I had no fear of falling because there was no room to fall!

Despite the indignities endured, I am glad I am able travel independently.

Let’s see whether I’m as cheery after I experience the new TSA groping, err, pat-down procedures for the first time in a few weeks…

Technorati Tags: ,,

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

Related Posts


  1. Tweets that mention Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt » Felt Up and Tied Down: The Thrills of Flying the Friendly Skies with a Mobility Impairment --
  2. up up and away make not be ok? | In my eyes my life with cerebral palsy
  3. Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt » The Inaccessible Nightmare Continues: Travel Stories from the Trenches


Comment by Camilla

November 23, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

I applaud your determination to travel independently on airplanes, in spite of the discomfort and inconvenience. My daughter, who is seven and has cp, cannot sit in an aisle chair or comfortably ride in an airline seat for more than a short flight. As she gets bigger, we may have to stop traveling by plane altogether until airplanes have spots for wheelchairs–only then will they be truly accessible.

Comment by Kati

November 23, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

I’m in UK and our Taxi’s won’t even take mobility scooters. They will take an electric wheelchair if it has Taxi tie down points, if it is a sporty manual chair you have to be able to transfer into one of their seats, so you cant get whiplash if they have to brake suddenly and your chair doesn’t have full back/head support.
Our ambulance transport system (free rides to medical appointments) has like a chair back they put your chair up against so they dont have to transfer people out of their chairs, if they can’t use their tie down system they won’t take you in your electric chair! They also won’t take any other equipment, as I was once asked to take any walking equipment I used and ambulance service would not help with a rollator, they will only take the person in a standard manual or electric wheelchair.
so getting out of my village is a challenge.. never mind out of the country!!!

Comment by Dann

November 24, 2010 @ 5:59 am

All those folks kvetching and making a ruckus about having their personal space trod upon and dealing with the TSA this holiday season should read this posting.

Comment by Meike

February 2, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

Last time I got ‘serviced’ at the airport,
I half expected to get a bill for it!

Comment by Glenda

February 2, 2011 @ 11:04 pm

Meike, I hear ya! Last time, I was thinking some massage oil would help…and then…any other person who tried that would have been slapped or kicked!

Comment by Karen Putz

October 2, 2012 @ 6:45 am

Gotta just love those TSA massages. I always request them when the only option is the full x-ray scan. So much fun…

Comment by SCG

January 11, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

You are truly awesome! There are far less intrusive and incovenient things that make me want to avoid travelling, you put me to shame. Thanks for the wake up call!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>