I'm one of the people who chafe against all the new security measures of the past few years, in part because of the way the measures aren't streamlined for those who are frail or infirm, but not so obviously that they require wheelchairs.
Fortunately, I have no special travel needs, but observe others who do often enough to wonder how those needs are addressed.
I wondered anew this morning after reading the piece below, written by an obese traveler. Admittedly, it's hard not to be judgmental in this particular case, since the fatness he describes seems to be self-induced. However, what other special circumstances are acknowledged and catered to -- or ignored -- by airlines, airports, etc.
I'm glad this guy has a good sense of humour. Sure, I'm sure his fatness is at least in part self-induced, but I worked for years with a guy who ate remarkably fat-laden takeaway lasagnas from a nearby greasy spoon for lunch and guzzled beers, and is still slim as a rod at 40-something (I do think his diet has improved since he became a dad). And many other disabilities may be the outcome of bad judgements or bad habits. My very-heavy-smoker dad was a scary example.
I have the problem of bouts of arthritis. Since upping my exercise a lot, I'm walking and running (if I must, not for exercise - too hard on the joints) with no problem, but a few years ago was contemplating getting a folding cane, not that I really needed a cane but because long periods of standing (queueing for example) without walking really made my joints lock.
I guess I feel twofold about this guy: nobody should be humiliated because of their body - we have no idea what they have been through, but he should think of ways he could get in somewhat better shape. I'll never be tall and slim either, but I'd be terrified to get like that guy. I was at one of my favourite church bazaars today - the chic Ste-Madeleine d'Outremont - and there was a lady ahead of me on a very small flight of stairs - perhaps five steps. She was morbidly obese, was walking with a cane (hard to say her age, but not more than 50-something at most) and could scarcely climb each step.
There are many "invisible" handicaps, and many special needs such as real allergies. One can't make the world into a rubberized playpen, but I'm sure there are ways we can make travel a bit safer and more agreable for all who must travel or want to and can afford to.
In general, I find trains tend to be much more civilized than other travel modes, and I hope there will be a revival of rail wherever possible. I think a lot of the great rail links in the Americas have been lost, for example.
My best friend suffers from MS (Multiple Sclerosis), an auto-immune disease that frequently renders her incapable of walking what able-bodied people might think short distances. In a major city airport, by the time she gets to Security, she is completely done. Additionally, she travels with a boatload of medicine, including needles. This always delays her security trip.
Most of her experiences have been good, I think. And I do think that the TSA in the US, at least, have had a little bit of training as I haven't yet seen any really undignified behavior on the part of the TSA.
But obesity is a different story, maybe. Not everyone is obese due to overeating. I generally assume there is another factor before I make a judgment most of the time. At least I try, anyway.
Also, its worth noting, as a frequent traveler, I am a relatively normal weight but I find airplane seats to be just a bit close. It only takes a few pounds or kilos to need to buy a second seat. Although I suppose it makes a difference if you you spread out horizontally vs. vertically maybe?
I think its my childrens' fault that my hips are sort of wide.
cristina, I have a dear friend with MS; fortunately he lives in Switzerland and his trips from Basel to Amsterdam, Paris or Western Germany are easily made by train, even if he is not with his wife. (I'm a strong train buff). MS is a horrible, degenerative auto-immune disease, my auto-immune arthritis is a piece of cake in comparison, at least so far (though some people are very seriously crippled by arthritis; some at an early age).
I think that if obesity were only a matter of overeating a lot MORE people in affluent Western countries would be obese; the colleague I spoke of is a telling counter-example. There is a fairly high rate of obesity in many "upper tier" Third-World countries, not those where everyone is starving, but contrary to what the NYT writer said, there are actually many obese people in Brazil, among those who can secure enough calories but not enough nutritious food.
Cristina, many women who are not "overweight" have wider hips than men who might weigh considerably more, and childbearing only exacerbates that somatic difference. I think perhaps the models are male, but it is also simply a matter of scrimping. Very few people can be comfy in airplane seats.
Can't your friend tell the staff she has MS and is disabled?