Traveling can be stressful for anyone, for a passenger with a disability it can be even worse. This week, a blind Canadian man had an unpleasant experience on a Virgin cruise ship in Miami. The former Paralympian swimmer Donovan Tildesly reported the company asked him to get off the ship because he was traveling solo. After the incident went viral, Tildesly received an apology and a free ride from the company. The itinerary was set to take in Mexico, Honduras and the Bahamas islands.
The athlete told local media outlets that this situation happened moments after he boarded the Valiant Lady. Two crew members approached him and told Tildesly that the travel would be unsafe for a solo blind passenger. The staff moved him to a Miami hotel as the ship set sail.
“Apparently they didn’t have the supports in place for my safety. I have traveled the world, taken three other cruises, one of them as a solo traveler, but this has never happened to me before!” Tildesly wrote on his Facebook account.
As CityNews Calgary reported, the former Vancouver-based Paralympic swimmer is now an insurance broker. He said in an interview with this Canadian broadcast that one of the things he’s learned working in customer service is you can always do your best after making a mistake.
“And that’s what Virgin did yesterday,” he said, adding he was eventually contacted by Virgin’s senior vice president of fleet operations. “He saw the tweets and he humbly apologized,” Tildesly told CityNews. “He did not understand how this miscommunication could have happened.”
Tildesly commented that the situation points directly to the ableist society we still live in, even in 2022.
“If this had been an issue, and obviously there may be certain things that are not fully accessible for a blind person, but they should have flagged it months ago when my travel agent booked it or when I was waiting at the port,” he said.
Virgin offered Tildesly a flight to Honduras to re-board the ship as it docks there Tuesday. The company has also covered the cost of his whole trip.