Flying with Evie: A Disability Pride Month story

Disability Pride Month is celebrated each July to honor the history, struggles, achievements and life experiences of people with apparent and non-apparent disabilities. BCD is taking this opportunity to help broadcast the message that there’s more we can each do to foster greater inclusion and advocate for change.

Pictured above: The Morrow family (L-R): Evie, Michael, Heather, and Brindle

Of all the trips BCD’s Heather Morrow has taken, a recent flight from Oklahoma to Texas will be a forever favorite. Morrow and her 9-year-old daughter Evie enjoyed their first-ever mother-daughter trip to Dallas. The plane ride was an experience Morrow wasn’t sure would happen, given Evie’s medical differences. Complications surrounded Evie’s birth in 2015. She had multiple surgeries in the first few months of her life and was often hospitalized. Today, Evie is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorders. Her first time on a plane was hard but still a thrill and a success, Morrow said.

First Dallas, then the world

“For the first trip, we chose Dallas because it involved just one plane. Waiting and sitting still are hard for Evie, so I found spaces at our gate where she could move around. The gate agents also suggested we take advantage of Priority Boarding (which I thought Evie was too old for) to give me more time to get her settled,” Morrow explained. The flight and trip went off with small hitches but Morrow is encouraged that they can build up to longer journeys. One goal is to travel to Europe with the whole family, which includes Heather’s husband, Michael, and 7-year-old daughter Brindle.

Compassion and flexibility at work

“That trip was so special because I really didn’t know if it would happen. No parent is ever truly prepared for the challenges of raising a child with medical differences. When she was born, I worked a high-level management job. There were times I slept under her hospital bed and juggled work calls with her doctors’ rounds. My experience since joining BCD two years ago has been life-changing, seriously. I quickly saw how committed the company is to living our mission, vision and values.

“The compassion and flexibility I get from BCD, my manager Kendra Cassels, and coworker Shirley Stroud is unmatched. In previous jobs, I was always cautious about disclosing my circumstances, but I didn’t feel that at BCD.” Morrow noted that her husband’s employer has also supported their family by providing him a hybrid schedule, where he works from home two days each week.

Learning and resources

Morrow worked in healthcare for 15 years before joining BCD’s Life Sciences Center of Excellence as a medical communications manager in 2022. Though she has broad healthcare marketing and communications experience, she’s still learning about the resources available to people with apparent and non-apparent disabilities.

“I only recently learned about organizations like the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program,” Morrow said. “If I’d known about it before our trip, I would have enrolled Evie without hesitation – and I will certainly use it next time.” The UK launched the Sunflower program in 2016 to help people with disabilities discreetly signal in public places that they may need additional support. Today, more than 240 airports worldwide recognize the program. United Airlines, a BCD supplier partner, has also implemented services to enhance the travel experiences for people with different needs.

On an episode of the Connections with BCD Travel podcast, the airline shared that they developed a Social story to prepare individuals for flying. The story visually guides passengers on getting to the airport, checking in, finding their gate, boarding the plane, flying, landing and leaving the plane. 

In anticipation of future trips, Morrow said she’s learning more about the disability- and sensory-friendly services and spaces that hotels, airports, and rail companies offer.

Building strong, inclusive environments in business travel

Observances like Disability Pride Month and candid discussions about accessibility and inclusion help promote awareness and understanding. It helps build cultures where people with disabilities and their support systems feel seen, heard and valued. These discussions can reveal barriers related to disabilities and lead to actionable steps to remove them.

“We all can do more to normalize differences so that we see more widespread implementations of such measures,” Morrow said.

An inclusive, supportive culture can also boost overall employee morale and engagement; employees are more likely to join and stay with a company that demonstrates care for all its people.

Originally established in the U.S., Disability Pride Month is celebrated in July to mark the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which passed on July 26, 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. It enables their full participation in society, including working, going to school, using public and private transportation services, voting, buying goods and services or accessing public places. Over the years, the celebration has extended worldwide.

The Disability Pride Flag

It’s important to recognize that there are a wide variety of disabilities, both apparent and non-apparent. In July, you may see the Disability Pride flag. The flag was created to encompass a wide range of disabilities and while initially designed in 2019, it was revised in 2021 to the design we see today. Within the flag, each color stripe has a meaning: 

  • Red: Physical disabilities 
  • Gold: Neurodiversity 
  • White: Non-apparent disabilities and undiagnosed disabilities 
  • Blue: Emotional and psychiatric disabilities
  • Green: Sensory disabilities

“Shame on me”

Stefan Pullman Multi National Program Manager BCD Travel German

“Shame on me,” said Stefan Pullmann, multi-national program manager for BCD Travel Germany. In a LinkedIn post, Pullmann wrote that he only just learned that July is the month to celebrate Disability Pride.

“An article in our BCD Travel intranet made me aware of this important celebration. In the last years of my mum’s life she suffered from dementia and used a wheelchair. My dad and I took a course to learn more about the disease and learned how to deal with the sometimes challenging situations caused by dementia. On the other hand, we received a lot of support from strangers when we pushed mom around town in her wheelchair or went into stores. It was a wonderful experience to see how helpful the people around us were. Despite the sometimes very stressful phases, I wouldn’t want to miss this experience.
“That’s why I’m all the more pleased that BCD drew my attention to this theme month. Some information and support has been published on our intranet for employees who have either obvious or hidden disabilities. Additionally, and something I am very keen to share with my network, our People & Culture department also published guidance on travel facilities for people in need. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has created a dedicated page with advice:

“[My lived experience] has made me much more attentive to my fellow human beings and I am happy to offer my support when I feel it is necessary,” Pullmann said.

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