I ran across a story this weekend that, in my opinion, couldn't possibly be more offensive. I mean, this airline hit every wicket, every hot button that I have. Let me explain:
The article I found discussed the experience that Jim Stanek, a disabled Iraq War veteran, had while attempting to fly United. Mr. Stanek has PTSD and also TBI. The airline personnel kicked his dog, and asked him if he was "retarded." A more offensive incident, I cannot imagine.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) do not have a "look". The soldier may be capable of walking and moving just as a typical person does. According to the CDC, "A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury." From 2000-2010, the Defence and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports that over 178,000 TBI diagnoses have been made. (Source: The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, http://www.dvbic.org/TBI-Numbers.aspx, last updated on May 20, 2010.) Our country's war heroes are leaving the war zones with "invisible" disabilities - in other words, you cannot tell just by looking at someone whether or not they have a disability. Regardless of personal feelings and beliefs about the wars our men and women are currently fighting, the returning soldiers need to be treated with dignity, respect and honor. Baring your ability to do that - how about a little common courtesy?
Kicking someone's service dog? Pretty damn low...even for airline employees!
Then adding insult to injury (literally), an airline employee demanded to know if Mr. Stanek was "retarded", because he couldn't read the information that the airline handed him. Let me tell you, as the mother of special needs children - and simply as a human being with a heart - this really chaps my cheeks. First of all, Cognitive Impairment (note: "mentally retarded" is no longer used to describe individuals with this diagnosis) is not an insult. It is a very real diagnosis. In fact "the number of people living with cognitive impairment in the United States is equal to twice the population of New York City (source: http://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/cognitive_impairment/cogImp_poilicy_final.pdf)." It is not an insult, punch line or innocent slip of the tongue; it is a tough reality for millions. For those living with CI, it affects every single aspect of their, and their family's, life. Such cruelty and hurtful behavior by ANYONE is intolerable.
I hope you are outraged on his behalf, his service animal's behalf and on behalf of all persons with special needs, invisible disabilities and those truly with Cognitive Impairment. Should anything come of the investigation into this incident by The US Dept. of Transportation, I will update you.