“Too many wheelchairs”

That was the judgment of the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) supervisor last evening at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.  “They can go through the lines like everybody else.”  So they closed the booth dedicated to processing people in wheelchairs, though later opened it up to the general public, approximately 99.5% of whom were not in wheel chairs.

I arrived at the figure above from the simple fact that there were about 500 people in line before me and no one else was in a wheel chair.

It is quite possible that there would have been wheel chair assisted passengers had they closed the special booth earlier, instead of right before me.  But I had spent about 30 min waiting to be assisted through customs, and I didn’t see anyone get help before me.  That was what made made the roughly one hour processing so painful; I wasn’t pushing myself, and the woman who was should have been able to get back to others.

So if you ever get the idea that it would be easier and quicker to get wheel chair assistance, let me say that is not my experience at Heathrow or Bush Intercontinental.  There are several points at which one sits around for 15-45 minutes waiting for someone to be free to help you. These add up.

Still, I resisted snarling at someone who got a wheel chair clearly destined for me, ‘Do you have a card?’ while waving my authorization.

And I remain amazed that we have yet another case of the fairly careless assumption that people with needs are seen as trying just to avoid what everyone else copes with. In comparison, the TSA’s response to my setting off alarms (artificial knee) was exemplary.

(In case you are wondering, let me say that my knee replacement surgery went as well as could be expected, but if you haven’t been walking properly for 3 years, coping with long distances and long lines requires more recovery time than I have had so far. This trip was almost too soon after surgery.)

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