Until last night I had never walked out on a speaker at a business conference. I guess there is a first time for everything. To tell you the truth I was just so offended by what the speaker said that I had to excuse myself before my blood began to boil.
So here's the scenario. The speaker was a has-been talk show hostess who wants to become a travel journalist. The setting was a national conference of travel journalists and PR professionals. The scene was the keynote speech on the opening night of the conference.
The speech started out benign enough; in fact it was pretty boring in the beginning. Then the speaker launched into a tirade of her travel peeves. It was quite obvious from her commentary that she either didn't travel a lot or she didn't pay much attention when she did.
As she rolled through her list, she pretty much managed to offend everybody. Eventually she started on wheelchair-users and slow walkers.
She started off by saying that she didn't have a "problem" with wheelers being boarded first on airplanes (how very big of her); however she went on to say that she didn't feel they should be allowed to disembark first and delay the other passengers. She called folks who do this "miracle flyers" as apparently they are "healed" during the flight, because they just "jump up" and run out when they land.
As you well know this isn't the norm. In fact, the general rule of thumb is first-on, last-off for wheelers. Indeed, sometimes it's just you and the cleaning crew waiting for that wheelchair. Sure, some slow walkers can shuffle down the jetway and wait for their wheelchair transportation there, but I've never seen anybody "jump up". Many people who need wheelchair assistance *can* walk. After all, not everybody who requires assistance is a full-time wheelchair-user. Let's face it, some airports are huge, and I strongly encourage slow walkers to take advantage of those airport wheelchairs to prevent fatigue, pain and overexertion.
But that's not how the speaker sees it. In her warped mind, she feels that anybody who requests wheelchair assistance should have to present a doctor's note before that request is granted. OK, that's when I left.
First off that's illegal (read the ACAA). Second, just because you are disabled doesn't mean you are under a doctor's care (disabled doesn't mean sick). Third, going to the doctor is yet another added expense. Fourth, by spewing this malarkey to a crowd of travel journalists, she was almost encouraging the spread of misinformation and subsequent ill-will towards PWDs. And finally, she just doesn't know what the heck she is talking about.
I was going to confront her, but when I realized how uneducated she was on the subject, I figured it would just be a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. If ignorance is bliss, then she must really be in happy land!
On the plus side, as I sat out in the lobby trying to find my happy place, no less than 25 people (all of whom I did not know) stopped to voice their support with comments like, "Yeah, it was getting pretty deep in there" or "I couldn't take much more either" or "She hasn't clue to what she is talking about" and (my personal favorite) "I think she's drunk."
All in all, not the most productive night of my life, but at least I left with the comfort of knowing that my fellow travel journalists didn't just fall off of the turnip truck. Apparently they didn't fall for her hooey either.
And that's a very good thing.