Seoul Story – Day 1 Part 1: September 3, 2007

Malaysia Airlines low-protein meal
Low-protein meal.

My flight was scheduled to depart at 1.00 am. The usual procedure is to board wheelchair users first and then the other non-disabled passengers. As I was transferring from my wheelchair to the aisle chair outside the aircraft, the other passengers were already boarding the plane. This annoyed the escort who was assigned to assist me as he had difficulty trying to get me into the aircraft with the other passengers streaming in.

Somewhere over South Korea
Land ho! Somewhere over South Korea.

The first thing that I did after I was comfortably seated inside the aircraft was to ask one of the cabin crews if they have the aisle chair that I had requested. Unfortunately, there was none. However, he said that he will carry me to the toilet if needed. I glanced at the toilet at the midsection of the plane and asked him how I was going to fit into it. He just smiled at me. The journey took about six and a half hours. Prior to boarding I had also emptied my bladder and controlled my fluid intake. But my diaper was fast filling up.

Accessible toilet in South Korea
Accessible toilet: Green button to open; red button to close.

When the plane finally touched down at Incheon International Airport, my diaper was almost full. To add insult to injury, I was informed that there was no request for an aisle chair to get me out of the plane. A Malaysia Airline staff at the airport offered to carry me. I had to agree as I was afraid that my diaper would leak anytime soon. As he lifted me up from the seat, my head hit against the overhead compartment with a loud thud. He apologised profusely for that incident later at the arrival lounge.

The welcoming party
The welcoming party for the 7th DPI World Assembly at Incheon International Airport.

At that time, the only thing that was in my mind was to look for a toilet to empty my bladder and change diapers. The first toilet that we stopped by was occupied. We went to the next. It was a déjà vu. The toilet was similar to those that I was so used to in Tokyo. It was fitted with the green and red buttons for opening and closing the door.

McDonalds - a familiar sight in a foreign land
The Golden Arches beckoning at the Incheon International Airport.

At the arrival hall, I saw a sweet young woman holding up a placard of the Disabled People’s International World Assembly and waved at her. She asked if I was attending the DPI WA. I said “Yes,” and she led us to the reception counter for us to catch our ride to the hotel. While waiting for our transport, I loitered around. One airport is the same as the other. The difference with this airport is that there were more security personnel patrolling the premises in twos. Just opposite the counter where we were waiting were the familiar colours and sights of McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Seoul Story – Day 1 Part 1: September 3, 2007”

  1. Its not reasuring that the airlines are more or less the same the world over, there are the odd ones that give us hope.
    The centre has a deligation visiting mid October from South Korea it would be good to hear from you as to the position of people with a physical disability from that part of the world can you give any links


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