Tag: media

What’s in a (doggy) name?

What’s in a (doggy) name?

Or why Qantas doesn’t need to know my handle

Hey peeps.

As you know, the Old Dude flies a lot. And of course, I tag along (we’re in Perth at the moment).

It’s cool. I wriggle in under the seat next to him, and there are always crumbs to clean up. I also get lots of admiration from the other passengers and airline staff, which of course I try not to notice. After all, I’m working and it’s not good for me to be distracted.

I wish they wouldn’t try to pat me and talk to me though. I’m trying to work dudes. Take a chill pill and let me do my job.

So, Qantas have introduced a new policy for assistance animals. And they want to know stuff which is — well — pretty in your face. Not the sort of stuff a young female dog likes to reveal.

First, they want to know where I was trained. I wonder if they ask the other passengers what school they went to. So, I tell them Guide Dogs NSW. And the Old Dude puts it in his Frequent Flyer profile — don’t want to have to answer this stuff every time we book. We have lives, you know.

Next they want my length. When you flew last, did they ask you how tall you are? No way. But 60cm goes in the profile — not including my beautiful tail of course.

Next they want my weight. Now come on. Personal as. And I’m a Labrador — you know we enjoy the odd snack or 30. And I see some pretty heavy dudes getting on those planes — not to mention the ones who are carrying a few extra kilos. Do they ask you your weight, or weigh your luggage? Come on Qantas, get a grip. Yet again we’ve chosen not to rock the boat — so we’ve put 30kg in the profile. Well that’s close enough, right. And it’s usually on the mark — unless I go for a big chew-out.

But then their last question for me crosses a line. They want to know my name. And I know what will happen if I tell them. They will put it in the flight manifest, and every flight attendant will think it’s ok to talk to me and distract me.

I’m trying to work dudes!

Well it’s not ok. I have a job to do. And if I don’t do it properly then the Old Dude is not safe. So, distraction, and using my name, is seriously uncool. I bet Qantas didn’t consult any dog handlers before they introduced this question.

But again, the Old Dude has come to the rescue with another one of his bright ideas. He has them occasionally, although don’t tell him that or it will go to his head.

We put his name, Graeme, down as mine. So, when those sneaky distractors think they’re talking to me they’ll just be talking to the hand. And he’ll answer them, which is the way it should be. Humans should talk to him, not to me. I’ve got work to do.

Job done. And I’ll just get on with my work. And the occasional crumb on the floor of course.

Tricked you, Qantas.

See ya peeps.

Captain Grumpy

Ex-Australian cricket captain Alan Border and I have something in common. No, it’s not the inate cricket ability that he had and I dream about. It’s that, sometimes, just doing your job, or living your life, as a person with a disability, can make you grumpy.

I’m sitting in an airport gate lounge, my guide dog beside me, drinking coffee, looking at twitter, and waiting for my flight to board.
“Hi, I’m Shane,” says the ground staffer as he approaches me, “We’re ready to board you now.”

I think “Why would I want to stop what I’m doing, not finish my coffee, and exchange this spacious plastic chair for a cramped airline seat ten minutes earlier than anyone else. I say “I’m happy to board with the rest of the passengers, thanks.”

“But you’re a “special” passenger,” he says. “We want to give you more time for you and your dog to settle in.”

I think “that’s code for: we want you on and out of the way before all of the others.” I say “Thank you, I don’t need any extra time.”

“But this is a legal requirement,” he says.

I think “that’s code for: I’m now going to try to bully you.”
I say “It’s actually not, and I’m very happy hear til the flight boards, thanks Shane.”

He sighs loudly, and says “Ok, all right.” and goes away.
I think: “that’s code for: what a Captain Grumpy. And I was just trying to help.”

An hour or so later-
“Sir, we’re landing in Hobart today, and there is no aerobridge. So if you just wait til last, I’ve booked the forklift to take you off the plane.”

“But it’s just my eyes that don’t work, not my legs.” I reply.

“Well, I was just trying to help,” is the unhappy response.
“And I appreciate your help, but perhaps you should have checked with me first.”

For some blind people, this decision may have been necessary, or appreciated. Just as some people with disabilities may need or want to board first. But why not ask if that’s what we want, rather than just assume. Because of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

It happens all the time-
People who use wheelchairs are regularly discussed – in their presence – as if they were luggage.
People with disabilities travelling with family members or friends are often not talked to at all- even when the question is about them. “Can he walk down the plane aisle, or will he need the chair,” said to the friend of a man using a wheelchair.

My wife has been scolded on one flight for “allowing me” to use the “wrong” (business class) toilet.

People with disabilities are often made to wait for long periods of time. Periods of time which most customers would just not tolerate.

Why do these things happen? Because many people in the community, and thus the airline industry, have a negative or limiting view of the capability of people with disabilities. And the customer service training of airline staff – and many other service industries – on disability issues is just not adequate.

I’m very happy, at any time, for someone to offer me assistance. I’m not happy, at most times, to have the decision made for me. That’s the critical difference.

We’ll go this longer way because there’s a lift- you won’t be able to use stairs; Your dog won’t be able to go on the escalators;
Just wait here and we’ll get someone to push your wheelchair;
We want to give you special treatment, so we’re taking you onto the aircraft first, and leaving you to get off last.

When people just assume that women will interrupt their career to have children, or won’t be interested in a more senior role, women rightly get annoyed.
When people do not give job applicants with non-anglo names an interview, those applicants rightly get annoyed.
But when people assume that if you have a disability you won’t be able to do something, we’re just supposed to smile and say “thank you for patronising me.”

So, if I’m being Captain Grumpy, perhaps consider your assumptions, rather than my manners.

Graeme Innes is a disability advocate and cricket tragic, and does a fair imitation of an Alan Border media interview if negative assumptions are made about him as a result of his disability.