Co-Cultural Communication A co-cultural experience When asked to write this paper about a co-cultural experience there was one that jumped right in to my mind. My experience occurred right around a year ago while I working for United Airlines. I worked out of the Canton-Akron Airport so the planes we flew were smaller then the jets out of Cleveland and were propeller planes. One day while checking in passengers like normal for our 5:50pm flight my co-cultural experience came up to the counter to check in. She was probably in her 30’s and was with two of her friends.
She was on her way to Chicago to be a guest speaker at a large conference. There was a few things that made this woman unique to me from first sight. First of all she was in an electric wheelchair. Secondly this woman was overweight. Third she appeared to be slightly retarded judging by her actions.
And lastly this woman had no arms and no legs. When I found out she was flying to Chicago and not her friends, I recommended that she fly out of Cleveland and that United Airlines would provide her with transportation up to the airport. The reason I recommended this is due to the fact that propeller planes do not have jet-ways that you walk or roll out in to the plane on. But rather propeller planes have approximately 8 or 9 narrow steps that people have to climb up to get in to the plane. For people with disabilities that could not walk up the steps we had a straight back chair to carry them up the steps with.
The straight back chair involved a guy at the top of the chair and one at the bottom carrying the chair while walking up the steps. A woman of her size though would be very difficult to carry up the stairs and the fact that the steps are narrow could come in to play also. After my suggestion her friends were very disgusted with me and walked away upset I could tell. No less than a minute later I had a phone call from a represenative of the Americans with Disabilities Act telling me that it was discrimination what I was doing. I explained to him the situation with the steps and that in Cleveland she would be able to roll right onto the plane through a jet-way.
The man insisted that going to Cleveland was not possible and to get her on the plane the best way we could. I told him that we would make every effort, but we can’t make any promises that she’ll get on the plane. About a half hour later the lady had been checked in and it was time to load her onto the plane. We took her out onto the tarmac where the plane was and proceeded to lift her out of her electric chair and on to the straight back. While carrying her from her chair to the straight back chair she became very scared and started to cry.
Her friends were able to calm her down and convince her that everything was okay. Next we carried the chair to the bottom of the airplanes steps and set her down to catch our breath. We then lifted her up and began up the steps, by the time we reached the third step we knew it wouldn’t work. The lady was just to wide to fit in between the railings for the steps and the only way to get her up would be to take her out of the straight back and carry her up sideways. That would be much too dangerous, so we set the straight back down and loaded her back into her electric chair with regret.
After that experience I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad in my life. It is really a shame when we have a country that is so technologically advanced but making air travel easier for people with disabilities has advanced very little if at all on most airplanes. We found out that she was going to be an inspirational speaker at a conference for disabled people and because of her not being able to make it on the flight she was going to miss her conference. From that day on I’ve been a lot more sensitive to disabled peoples needs. Seeing that woman cry when she found out that she would have to either fly out of Cleveland or drive to Chicago brought us all to tears and made us realize how fortunate we are to even be able to walk.