Examining the Air Travel Experiences of Individuals with Vision Disabilities Using a Co-cultural Theoretical Lens
Traveling is one of the most enriching and fulfilling activities for most people. Yet factors such as crowded airports, long waiting queues, and inaccessible features of airports and airplanes often make traveling stressful for many individuals including those with disabilities. This qualitative phenomenological research study examined the underexplored area of traveling with a vision disability. Framed around a Co-cultural theoretical perspective, the study examined the lived experiences of vision impaired individuals with regard to receiving disability assistance services during air travel. The study specifically explored the communication strategies that vision impaired individuals employed to manage their assistance-related air travel needs. The study used in-depth interviews for data collection, and a combination of thematic analysis techniques for data analysis. Findings indicated four categories of assistance-related issues that vision impaired participants frequently experienced in their travel: personnel training issues, system issues, policy issues, and physical accessibility issues. The study also identified four Co-cultural communication orientations that participants used in navigating air travel: assertive accommodation, aggressive accommodation, assertive assimilation, and nonassertive assimilation. In addition, the study identified a new Co-cultural communication practice - normalizing for self. Findings of this research conclude that despite three decades since the passage of United States legislation to protect the rights of disabled people, vision impaired travelers still frequently experience inequitable air travel practices. The study offers recommendations on pressing issues concerning policies and regulations that can inform airline executives and federal legislators in facilitating a more equitable and pleasurable air travel experience for those with vision disabilities.