Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Part III: An Open letter to the City of Chicago and their reply

This was what I wrote to

Dear Sir or Madam,

Hello, I just want to share with you about what had happened at ChicagoO'Hare airport. As a frequent traveler and deaf myself, I don't usually experience anything like this.

I narrated what just happened to me at the airport while getting off the plane from United in my vlog about an encounter I had with the contractor at Chicago O'Hare airport on Feb. 11th who brought me a wheelchair. After telling him that I was just deaf and not in the need of having a wheelchair, he kept on insisting me to sit on it. After I declined politely, he offered to put my bag and coat on the wheelchair (you will see the picture in my vlog).

As I was going on my way to the gate, he continued to walk next to me till the end although I had told him several times that it wouldn't be necessary. He offered me to hold his arm several times and I again said no. He even told me about my appearance and how gorgeous I looked while I was in the elevator and that did not make me feel comfortable especially in an enclosed area. I felt I was harassed and being paternalized. Although he was trying to be friendly but he went overboard. The point was that he dismissed my request that I did not need service. It led me to conclude that airport employees who serve the disabled are not having significant understanding and obviously received a lack of training about disability.

In my vlog, you can see how many comments were made by deaf people who are able to find a common experience like my story. To my dismay, there are many deaf people who have been misunderstood in the airport especially at Chicago. If they are elderly people or people who are not completely able to walk, please do continue to provide them service. However for deaf people who are physically able to walk, I just want to put this to an end as it is not necessary to "dangle" the wheelchair in front of them.

Please let me know what can it be done to alleviate this problem.

Thank you for your attention,

Barbara DiGiovanni

Now a letter of reply from Gretchen Meyer:

Dear Ms. DiGiovanni:

Thank you for taking the time to share your recent experience with us. Wheelchair assistance is contracted out by each individual airline. In your case, United Airlines contracts out to a company called AirServ for wheelchair and other assistance to its passengers.

There have been a few recent issues with AirServ as well as some of the other contractors at O'Hare. We consider this a very serious issue and we are currently working with our airline tenants at O'Hare to ensure that their contractors are properly trained to work with passengers with disabilities.We have already met with some local agencies who will be assisting using this process. I assure you that we are working to correct this issue as quickly as possible.

On behalf of O'Hare International Airport, I truly apologize for the recent experience you encountered while using our facility. I will also be sure to forward this to United Airlines for review.Please accept my sincere apology and I hope your next visit to O'Hare is more enjoyable.


Gretchen Meyer

So I am still waiting to hear from United and will keep you informed. Feel free to review the comments and my replies in my original post to see how many more unbelievable stories and input posted there. All I hope is that my story as well as some of yours who have shared in the comment section will prevent this from happening again for us deafies.


Chris Heuer said...

Social Experiment:

Why don't all of us who have commented on this vlog contact the very same email address and say something like this:

Hello Ms. Meyer:

I realize that you are only responsible for the conduct of United Airlines towards its fliers who are deaf or have disabilities. Nonetheless I must confess that Barbara DiGiovanni's vlog angered me a great deal. I feel a lot of empathy because I too have had such an experience. I would like to tell you about it here.


Understand, please, that these types of problems have been continuing for years, and nothing ever changes. I am sending you this letter in hope that you will do your utmost to put an end to this type of humiliating insanity. Perhaps you would be willing to contact Ms. DiGiovanni again and set up a panel to discuss what can be done about the situation?

Thank you for your time!



Barb, if you don't mind, I would very much like to do this. My own horror story happened with another airline, but wow, between me, Brendan Stern, and everyone else who has suffered such frustration with the airlines, the more letters this woman gets, the more she might be motivated to do something?

What do you all say? Nobody make a move until Barb says whether or not she's comfortable with it (it's her blog, right?), but if she is, let's write and write and write until we get a panel set up.

It'll be interesting to see if we can pull it off!

Anyone game?

mishkazena said...

I am game for this as I do have negative experiences with the airlines.

Paul said...

I am shocked to know how the airlines are treating the deaf passengers. I commuted between Tampa and St. Louis for the past three years. I did not have problem. I recall one time that one guy tried to show me the wheelchair. I told him that I do not need it and walked away.

I do often click on "assistance needed" when making reservations on line. I selected one that identifies me as deaf.

Whenever I arrive at the airport, I remind them that I cannot hear. Some agents are nice and some were rude.

I did not mind joining the group to get on plane who were first before the passengers board.

I am wondering about the laws affecting this matter. Sometimes there is large turnover at each airline and new blood comes in. How much sensitivity training is there to provide them with better understanding and better directives on handling it case by case?

I do hope I don't experience what happened again.

So hopefully if we make noises, they will take notice!

That is what advocacy is all about!



Nick Vera said...

Barbara DiGi,

Absolutely, I agreed with you about the wrong procedure for the contractors to lure non-physical disabities like us to use wheelchairs.
As I said in your early vlog about your personal experience, I strongly recommended the event at any airports to celebrate the Deaf Awareness month to educate hearing people about our culture, language, and others including the demostration of reversing role of deaf-hearing at the airport scene experience. That will help them to understand the differences. I pray that all airports will familair the different groups that will serve properly.
Hopefully, United Airlines will respond you soon and probably will give you one free round trip ticket or add 25,000 miles to your mileage on frequent flyer. :)

Barb DiGi said...


The more letters received, the more powerful it will be so please do type away! I will post a sample letter of yours in part IV along with responses from United, hopefully.

Elizabeth: We are all in this game and hope to hit a homerun!


Still they offered you a wheelchair, sheesh! Are they blind that you could walk or what? About the part on boarding on the plane first, it is easier for deaf people to be a part of the group that goes in first since dealing with who is supposed to be called to get on the plane is a confusion.


Deaf Awareness events are on an ongoing basis and should be exposed in the airports.

Lily's world said...

wow. I understand about the contractors jobs. It is these duty to do the works. I came in O'hare twice, in 1988 and 2005. But that kind of contractor helped a wheelchair that not using before but a cart they drove I ride in 1988. Let them have it way for good treat for deafies. I remember in 1999, I went to Japan...I rode NWA airplane and I paid on the coach in the behind with no CC tv and nice meals for long trip until I got there in Narita, Japan. a japanese lady wants me to stay last other people to go first out until the last bus. I rode and went into new airport and the lady asked me to go another side way for employees only that an express the passport booth stamped and check the suitcase quickly than the long lines with public and waiting for stamp the passport booklet. I am in quickly than them last. And, return back home, I was in 35, 000 feet sky the lady asked me to move to 1st class seat in two hours before landed in NYC. I joke to that lady "can I have a wine before landed arrive?" she said no with a laughed. what a dang!! I am enjoyed my trip to Japan. And I will be return.