Anybody who has travelled on an airplane knows that they will be asked to turn off their electronic devices during takeoff and landing. This was the case on a recent American Airlines flight when Carly Fleischmann, a teen with Autism, was asked to turn off her iPad before the plane’s captain got involved and allowed her to keep it.
It may not seem like a big deal to most of us to power down our electronics for a few minutes, but Fleischmann suffers from Oral Motor Apraxia which means that while her thoughts are clear she is unable to communicate them as they become mixed up when she tries to speak. Lacking the fine motor skills that would enable her to use a pen, the girl is able to use her fingers and therefore her iPad to communicate.
Fleischmann uses the iPad like a prosthetic limb and not as a toy. This distinction means that she couldn’t communicate something essential like a medical emergency without the device –for this particular flight that would have resulted in 50 minutes of silence.
Fleischmann is happy that she was able to retain the use of her iPad for this flight, but encourages all airlines to revisit their policies on the matter. She reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Human Rights Commission by saying:
“I have autism and my iPad acts as a augmentative devices that allows me to communicate and be heard. I use my iPad during security to ask for further instructions, I use my iPad well waiting for my airplane and ask the reception people when the flights going to take off, I use my iPad on the airplane to tell them if there’s something wrong with my seat or my seatbelt or with the airplane. I am begging you as a active passenger on your flights to change your policy when it comes to dealing with people with autism and other special needs. Its time for you to move with the times and understand that a iPad is not just for fun it’s for people who really need it too.”
The flight attendants that had tried insisting the device be turned off were only doing their job. It is currently American Airline’s policy (and part of the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations) to ensure this happens, though the pilot himself admitted that they use the devices themselves during takeoff and landing.
All recent reports indicate that mobile devices have no dangerous effects on aircrafts.