Braille Monitor February 1986
As usual, just safety, it's not discrimination - just safety.
December 11, 1985
National Federation of the Blind
I am wondering if you have any printed or Braille material concerning the FAA regulations for blind passengers. Specifically, we are interested in seating arrangements for blind persons accompanied by guide dogs.
Last Sunday I took my husband John to Hays, Kansas, to catch Air Midwest Flight 185 to Kansas City, Missouri. The treatment he received was less than satisfactory. We were informed when we picked up the ticket he would be pre boarded in row 9.
The planes are very small, row 9 being the last row. There were no seat assignments on this flight. My husband informed the flight attendant he wished to be seated in a regular seat and did not need to preboard. After considerable exchange we were informed if he intended to take this flight he would, in fact, be seated in row 9 and that he really had no choice.
In an attempt to board with the other passengers John was grabbed by the arm and informed he was not boarding the plane and to stand behind the gate. He was almost knocked to the ground as he was spun around quite unexpectedly. At that point the flight attendant threatened to call security, and I asked him to please do just that. No one from security ever appeared. We waited until all the other passengers were seated. By now he had no choice but to sit in the back row as the plane was full. There were three seats across the back, two of which had no space under them. His only choice was to have the dog lying in the aisle because he also had a small piece of carry on luggage and no overhead compartments were available on this small plane. Of all the seats in the plane this was the worst possible place for the dog, as their main objection was that the dog would be blocking an aisle.
It was not until after John was boarded on the plane that someone took the time to show me something in their manual saying that blind or deaf passengers accompanied by dogs were to be seated in row 9. By then I was so upset I didn't take the time to read it carefully and did not think to request a copy.
John is due to return home this Friday on Air Midwest Flight 216 from Kansas City into Goodland, Kansas. I have contacted the head office in Wichita in an attempt not to have a repeat performance. Also attached is a copy of the letter I wrote the airline. It will be interesting to see what transpires.
My sister, in an attempt to get both sides of the story, contacted the airport manager in Hays. Their story was that John insisted on being seated in the front row and the flight attendant grabbing his arm was merely for his protection as he was about to walk into a propeller. This was hardly the situation. Because of all the hassle at the airport I accompanied my husband to the steps of the plane before I ever returned to the building. They also contend that even after showing us the rules, John still refused to be seated in row 9. The first time I saw any rules the plane was taking off. John says he was never shown anything. Any information you can provide concerning FAA rules would be most helpful. I have listened to your August/September 1985 Braille Monitor and found it quite interesting.
Linda F. Holliday
December 10, 1985
Ms. Helen Miller
Dear Ms. Miller:
I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for returning my call yesterday. My husband, John Holliday, is to return this Friday on Flight 216 leaving Kansas City, Missouri, at 3:05 p.m. and due to arrive in Goodland, Kansas, at 4:23 p.m. MST.
His plans are to board the plane with the other passengers. In the event there are no seating assignments, then he should have the same opportunity as any passenger to any seat. He will be accompanied by a seeing eye dog which, I assure you, will be no problem to the airline or any passenger. In the event the dog is blocking any traffic way, he agrees to move to a seat of the airline's choosing.
I have given him your name and number in the event any problem should arise. My sister contacted the airport manager in Hays where he had the boarding problem. His story is quite different, as he contends my husband insisted on a front row seat which was, in fact, never the case. All he said was that he preferred not to be seated in row 9 and felt he had as much right to any seat as any other passenger. This is when he was informed by Dallas Ruehlan that he would be preboarded in row 9 or he would not be flying.
John Glassman, the airport manager, also advised my sister that Dallas Ruehlan, the flight attendant, had no choice but to pull my husband out of the way because he was walking into a propeller. I find this story quite interesting in light of the fact we were still in the terminal when the incident occurred. I also walked my husband to the steps of the plane and he was also accompanied by his seeing eye dog at all times. Never was he anywhere near the propeller.
Isn't it amazing my husband is able to walk two miles each way to and from his job, weather permitting, but the airline people don't think he can find his way off and on a plane. The real handicap is not the blindness but the ignorance of society!
Once again, I wish to thank you for the time you have given this matter.