Watch Your Language


Last night, as I was cruising some of my favorite disability-focused message boards, I stumbled upon a rather unusual post.

The poster uses a scooter for mobility and is planning a trip to the UK. She said she called Virgin Atlantic Airlines to make a reservation and the reservation agent told her they could not transport her scooter on the same flight. It would have to be transported several days later.

Livid, the poster logged on to the internet, and posted a big warning about Virgin Atlantic.

But the whole situation struck me as rather odd. First off, I’ve always known Virgin Atlantic to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. Second, Virgin Atlantic won’t even accept any unaccompanied baggage on flights originating in the US. And third, there was just something odd about the terminology the poster used.

So I did a little investigating. It turns out that when the reservation agent heard the word “scooter”, she assumed it was a motor scooter. After all they are very common in the UK. Now if the poster would have taken the time to explain that she had a medical mobility device not a motor scooter, things would have turned out different.

Of course, Virgin Atlantic Airlines transports (mobility) scooters on the same flight as the passenger. It would defeat the whole purpose (mobility) to do anything else.

So the next time you hear an unexpected answer from a reservation agent, don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. It could be just a simple language problem. Try and figure out if the reservation agent really understands what you are talking about. Rephrase your request, describe your disability and avoid slang terms whenever possible.

Remember, a scooter isn’t always a medical mobility device.