Photo of Belo Cipriani and his guide dog

Traveling with a Disability: The Applause

I buckled my seatbelt and reached toward the floor to caress Madge’s velvety ears. The flight attendants began to voice the emergency exits and I could feel the plane slightly glide up and down, reminding me we were actually moving. The ticket agent instantly fell in love with Madge and bumped us up to first class; something I felt a little guilty about accepting, but got over quickly once I rested my tired limbs on the plush seat.Fortunately there was no one sitting next to me and I disengaged myself from all the chatter around me while enjoying a glass of wine. Another perk of first class seating is that the bathrooms are closer. Knowing the bathroom door was just a few steps away, I decided to leave Madge in a stay position. There was no way we could both fit in that tiny room and I decided to use my hands to find the door. Just like the flight attendant had pointed out to me earlier, the bathroom was three steps from my seat and was easy to find.

A few minutes later, I stepped out and made my way back to Madge. As soon as I touched the headrest with my hand, the cabin erupted in applause. I heard a woman shout from a distance, “You’re amazing!” A man chimed in with, “Wow, look at you being so independent.” A woman sitting the next seat over added, “That’s really cool!”

Annoyed, I wanted to tell them that taking a few steps in the dark was something I am sure they have all done at some point in their lives. However, I remembered that blind people are less than one percent of the population in the U.S. and I could possibly be the first blind person they’d seen traveling on a plane. Nevertheless, I did not feel like being inspirational. Instead, I resorted to humor, because blind individuals are people and are entitled to mood swings. I flashed a smile and said, “I know!  I’ve been walking since I was one.”

Who is Belo Cipriani?

Belo Cipriani is the Writer-in-Residence at Holy Names University, a spokesperson for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the “Get to Work” columnist for SFGate.com, and the author of Blind: A Memoir. You are invited to connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

Belo Cipriani View more

Belo Cipriani is the award-winning author of Blind: A Memoir and Midday Dreams. He is a disability advocate, a spokesman for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and is currently the national spokesman for 100 Percent Wine -- a premium winery that donates 100 percent of proceeds to nonprofits that help people with disabilities find work.