Letter of the Day | Persons with Disability and airport security
THE EDITOR, Sir:
When will we get it right? My friend on January 1, 2017 checked in at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) to return to the United States. On going through the security personnel, she was asked to remove her shoes (she wears a brace on one leg). She advised that it would be difficult to remove same as to put back the shoe on would pose a problem. They insisted, and she asked to speak with the supervisor, who also said she needed to remove the shoe. It was when she asked to speak with Commander McFarlane that she was allowed to go through. Another passenger who wore a brace on his leg was also told to remove his, which I understand he did in the presence of his wife. She was not at all happy about it.
I recall some time ago when I had to remove both my artificial legs at the same airport, and during a discussion with Commander McFarlane, who was interviewed by several radio talk-show hosts, the question of providing the necessary equipment to scan persons with disabilities was discussed. I heard him saying to one of the talk-show hosts that the use of swab, as is done in other countries, would be introduced. To my recollection, this has not been done.
A friend of mine who is a tetraplegic was asked to stand by the security. After repeated instructions to stand and being told by the individual 'I cannot stand', his wife then asked the security, 'how can you ask a tetraplegic to stand?' her reply was 'do you know who you are talking to?' which clearly told me that this person had no clue as to who is a tetraplegic and/or what is involved. I remember speaking to the manager of security at the airport, as also Commander McFarlane, about the incident. However, I am still to understand what is happening when some of us have to be exposed to this indignity from these security personnel.
What about the training that I am often told that these staff are exposed to? how are they made to be more caring and understanding when dealing with persons with disabilities, and why do I get the feeling that we are being stereotyped as individuals travelling with drugs?
I recently returned to Jamaica from Atlanta and I was never exposed to such indignity. I must say, however, that I am always very afraid of going through the NMIA as I never know what to expect, and I should not have to advise anyone to say I am leaving the country so that I am not locked up in a room and told to remove my legs. It is demeaning, undignified and leaves a feeling of worthlessness among us.
When are we going to get it right in dealing with persons with disabilities at our airport in Jamaica!
On another matter, a person with a disability was raped and murdered recently. she was described as an 'imbecile' by the superintendent giving the report. It is obvious he did not know the meaning of the word or he would not have described her in that manner. When are we going to get it right?
SARAH NEWLAND-MARTIN, oD, JP