While I try not to get angry at my brain for its frequent malfunctions, it’s more difficult to resist reacting negatively to externally imposed challenges/idiocies. (Cue rant.)
I recently discovered that Air Canada requires all passengers with epilepsy to obtain written permission from their doctor and submit a signed form at least forty-eight hours before each flight. They don’t make allowances for different kinds of epilepsy, nor do they take into consideration seizure frequency, seizure control, or that the majority of seizures pass quickly and require little or no intervention.
Epilepsy is not the only condition for which AC demands medical approval for travel; for example, passengers who use medical oxygen, have a chronic lung disease or a heart condition, or suffer from “an unstable medical condition (physical or psychological)” must also abide by the airline’s forty-eight-hours’-advance-notice procedure.
It’s interesting to note that travel between Canada and the States is subject to different, significantly less stringent guidelines due to the US Department of Transportation’s “Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel” (14 CFR Part 382), which explicitly prohibits an airline from forcing travellers to provide medical documentation. I like to think that I live in a country that is accommodating of people with disabilities and/or significant medical conditions, but there are few words besides “discrimination” to account for the fact that I’m supposed to follow a time-consuming and annoying pre-flight procedure while my “healthy” companions can book online, show up at the airport, and get on the flight with no complicated intervening steps.
I understand Air Canada’s wish to protect travellers (and itself—I’m sure liability issues factored heavily in the decision to implement this policy). I furthermore understand that certain medical conditions do call for a professional’s medical opinion as to whether it’s safe for the patient to travel by air. But why should people with Down syndrome or severe allergies be subject to AC’s “fit to travel” rule? Why not, for that matter, everyone with a family history of heart disease or presenting risk factors for heart attack?
More immediately relevant, why epilepsy, which Air Canada treats as a homogeneous disease rather than the multifarious disorder it is? I’m not saying that there aren’t circumstances in which disclosure and pre-trip clearance would safeguard both passenger and staff from potential crises, but such cases fall on the extreme end of the epilepsy spectrum. Obliging everyone labelled as “epileptic” to go through the hassle of a medical visit prior to each and every flight is not just discriminatory. It’s also evidence of a widespread problem: that misconceptions about epilepsy are going unchecked.
What my superficial rant boils down to is that I take exception to the lumping together of everyone diagnosed with epilepsy, with the perpetuation of stereotypes and misinformation, and with the assumption that it’s OK to make me jump through hoops because someone embedded in Air Canada’s bureaucratic machinery has decided that I am a potential encumbrance without considering the particulars of my situation.
And now I’ll continue preparing for an upcoming trip. I have yet to fill in the requisite paperwork.