… Don’t say anything at all! … Not once, but TWICE in one day of travel people made rude comments to us about my husband getting wheelchair assistance and sitting in the disabled seating in the airport by our gate. What they didn’t know is that he is medically retired from the US Army with a very severe hip injury, which will require surgery. Walking long distances causes him pain, and add to that the fact that at the airport he has to carry extra weight of either 2 backpacks and/or a child and he can’t walk fast or run if we have a tight connection.
The first person who said something saw him being wheeled up the ramp as we de-planed and said to me (having no idea that he was my husband), “I thought those wheelchairs were reserved for elderly people who can’t walk well. Guess they just give them out to anyone these days.” I ignored her, because what I wanted to say would have probably caused me more trouble then it was worth. My husband asked for assistance at the airport, which is his right, same as anyone else. He did not ask to be judged by those who assumed he was just taking advantage of riding on those cool little carts that zoom through the terminal, or by others who looked at him and saw a young healthy guy, not knowing he is a War Veteran with a career-ending injury. These injuries make it challenging for him to keep up with Buggy and Froggy on walks that turn into runs, and cause him pain every day. If he needs assistance he should be allowed to get it, without question.
To those who judged him without bothering to find out about his circumstance, let me add that I did not get or ask for any assistance throughout our trip. When he got on one of those fancy carts, he and Buggy rode and I gave my seat to an elderly lady who also needed assistance. I walked/ran behind the cart carrying the baby and a backpack so the lady didn’t have to wait a long time for another cart. When the terminal was crowded, I let my husband sit in the disabled seating and I stood nearby, even though there was an empty seat next to him, because I wanted to make sure people who actually did need a seat could have one. Some lady sitting there, next to 2 empty seats in a very crowded terminal, had the nerve to tell him the seating was for disabled people. He didn’t respond, which is a lot nicer then what I would have done if I wasn’t busy taking a toddler and a baby to the bathroom. She also gave Buggy several dirty looks and glared at me when Froggy spilled a little bit of his snack on the floor about a foot from her. We cleaned up after him, and I’m sorry, but I think Buggy was exceptionally well behaved considering we had been traveling for over 8 hours by this point, and our flight was delayed. There was no need to inform my husband that the section of seats was for disabled people, or to shoot nasty looks at us. I realize she most likely had some sort of disability herself, but that is no excuse to be rude. My husband didn’t question why she was sitting there, and it wasn’t as if she needed his seat; she was already sitting when we arrived. She had no idea what he’s been through, and frankly, it’s not her business. My husband told me later that he didn’t respond because he doesn’t owe anyone any kind of explanation. He said it’s nobody’s business why he is getting assistance, so he just sat there.
Just because my husband looks young and healthy does not mean he does not have a disability. Just because he has two young children and a wife with him does not mean he/we asked for assistance because we couldn’t manage on our own. Just because someone doesn’t appear TO YOU to have a disability does not mean you have the right to be rude to them for seeking out assistance. I wish people would mind their own business and realize that their assumptions and vocalizations about these assumptions can really negatively impact others. Be kind. Show compassion. Think before you speak. If you don’t know if someone has a disability and they are receiving assistance, please have faith that they feel they truly need the help. Nobody wants to be disabled. Nobody wants to have to ask for help to get through an airport. Nobody wants to live in pain.
I wish my husband didn’t have an injury that ended his 9 year military career and shattered his dreams of becoming Special Forces. I wish he didn’t have an injury that causes him pain every day, and that he could go on family walks with us without limping. I wish that people would try to understand that if something doesn’t directly impact them (I have no idea how a stranger’s disability impacts anyone else) they need to be quiet and mind their own business. I wish we could all remember that our words can impact others, positive or negative, and that if we don’t have something nice to say we shouldn’t say anything at all.