On Sunday, December 16, I was traveling on Southwest Airlines from Florida to North Carolina. Sitting near the front of the plane, I had the opportunity to watch inclusion in action. Two individuals with visual impairments boarded the plane with their service dogs. The passengers sitting in the front row volunteered to change seats to make room for the service dogs. The flight attendant introduced herself to the couple and asked how she could help. Throughout the entire trip, the flight attendant checked in with the couple, but refrained from acting as a hover craft. And as the plane was preparing to land, the flight attendant let the couple know they would be landing soon and made sure she knew which bins their luggage was in so they could de-plane easily. One of the other passengers sitting near this couple even assisted to help these individuals make their way to baggage claim.
As I have been reflecting on what I have witnessed, my heart is warmed that a few ordinary citizens, probably without even knowing, created a supportive inclusive experience. The flight attendant and other passengers relied on the expertise of the individuals with disabilities, empowering these individuals to say what they needed in order to be supported, instead of assuming they knew best. My hope is that this positive experience will give that flight attendant and those citizens the confidence to create other inclusive opportunities and view individuals with disabilities as capable and independent.