FLYING WHILE BLIND
CEO India|February 2020
I AM NOT ONLY AN EXPERIENCED TRAVELER; I AM AN EXPERIENCED BLIND PERSON…
GEORGINA KLEEGE

“But what about me?”

Those words were spoken by a man sitting next to me on an airplane. I was in the aisle seat and he was in the center. He was speaking to the flight attendant who was delivering the preflight safety briefing. Usually, I will get a private briefing during the pre boarding process for people with disabilities. But this time, a flight attendant didn’t get to me until the plane was fully boarded.

In the language of the boarding announcement, I am “someone who needs a little extra time going down the Jetway.” This is not entirely true. I am blind, but I am a fast walker, particularly in the unobstructed space of jet-ways and airplanes where there are rarely obstacles or intersections to make a wrong turn. I can lift my own suitcase into the overhead bin. I am very tall, making the lift and twist easier, and I know how to pack light. Usually, all I need is help finding my seat, though I can often accomplish this simply by counting.

Sometimes the flight attendant will realize I am an experienced traveler and abbreviate the briefing. Yes, I know how to buckle my seatbelt and that the nearest exit might be behind me. Sometimes they have a Braille version of the safety information card. This makes for interesting reading, because in describing the position to take in case of a crash landing, there’s greater precision than in the image alone. Once in a while, they even let me handle the oxygen mask and life jacket, which allows me to retain a tactile memory of those objects that I hope will come back to me should the need arise.

While all this is going on I strive to reassure the attendant that I won’t be any extra work for her during the flight. I am not only an experienced traveler; I am an experienced blind person. I know how to find my way to the lavatory. In the unlikely event that food is served, I know how to feed myself.

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