On Sept. 15, Hetherington took to social media with a heartbreaking story of missing his lifelong dream to see Beyoncé perform live. Despite securing a coveted ticket to her highly anticipated tour in Seattle and paying a small fortune to attend, he never even made it to the city in time.
When it was time to board his flight, “ableism [struck] again.” Every flight and airline turned away Hetherington, who has cerebral palsy, due to the size of his wheelchair.
“Well, I guess I’m not going to Seattle and I’m not seeing Beyoncé. Got to the airport to take my flight, and my chair is apparently four inches too tall to be loaded onto the plane. So they checked every possible flight, every airline,” he explained.
“So after 25 years of waiting, I’m not seeing Beyoncé tonight. So ableism strikes again.”
According to Revolt, the height requirement for wheelchairs was “unspecified,” leaving countless others to possibly face the same costly ableism. Hetherington’s story went viral, racking up nearly 20 million views on X (formerly Twitter) alone.
The next day, he thanked everyone for the overwhelming support on his Instagram Stories. The BeyHive showed up and showed out for him, offering their tickets to the few remaining shows.
The internet hoped Beyoncé’s team would right the airlines’ wrongs after her publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, followed him on Instagram. The Queen ensured her devastated fan got a one-of-a-kind experience.
Check out Beyoncé and Tina Knowles blessing Jon Hetherington with a backstage meet and greet after the flip!
Beyoncé Rolls Out The Chrome Carpet For Jon Hetherington At Dallas Renaissance Concert: “BeyHive You Made This Happen”
Ableist airlines may have delayed Jon Hetherington’s dream of seeing Renaissance, but Beyoncé and the hive ensured it wasn’t denied. A week after the 34-year-old couldn’t even board a plane to see her, he got a VIP experience better than anything he imagined. On Sept. 21, he finally made it to the see the legend perform live in Dallas.
The newly famous fan revealed the good news on an Instagram post. In addition to thanking the BeyHive who “made this happen,” he honored queer icons and hate crime victim O’Shae Sibley.
“For the past, for Marsha, James, and Bayard. For the present, for O’Shae. For those who are becoming in a time that has yet to exist. We partied, we sang, we danced… HARD,” he rejoiced.
“Beyhive, you made this happen, you pushed and tagged like the internet has never seen. Tonight, for the first time ever, I had a seat on the floor for a concert. Welcome to the RENAISSANCE.”
— iAM_ddcmoore (@dcdmoore) September 22, 2023
The incredible night didn’t end with finally seeing Beyoncé perform in Dallas. Hetherington got the VIP treatment to meet the Queen herself and Tina Knowles backstage. Despite posting that “There are some things I’ll keep for myself,” he shared a super sweet selfie with Mama Tina.
“There is much that I will say in the coming days about what tonight means to me. There are some things I’ll keep for myself. Truly an honor to meet you, @mstinaknowles! Thank you for all that you’ve done and given the world. We’re so grateful,” he wrote.
“To the Queen herself, @beyonce, I will treasure those words you said and the hugs you gave. I meant every word I said. No, for anyone and everyone reading this, I will not ever share with you what was said to me, don’t even try it. That moment is between the two of us.”
While Beyoncé and the BeyHive blessed Hetherington with a happy ending, he used his platform to shine a light on the larger issue of ableism. Unfortunately, ableism is so rampant in our society that most people don’t see it or the disabled people it harms every day.
In a TikTok about his interview with Insider, Hetherington emphasized that the real problem is bigger than him or one flight. “It’s a systemic issue,” he explained.
“It’s not just about me. It’s not about me at all, actually. It’s about ableism and the existence of disabled people in society,” he explained on TikTok.
Even when wheelchairs and other mobility aids fit on flights, airlines still regularly fail disabled people. Several wheelchair users land only to find their lifeline for navigating the world is damaged or completely broken. There is often little or no hope that airlines will replace the customized medical equipment that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Hi @SAS, this is the 2nd time you’ve broken my wheelchair on arrival at @CPHAirports. Every person I spoke to from check-in to landing promised it would be at the gate. Instead I found it in pieces and incomplete at the baggage claim.
This is my freedom you’ve treated callously. pic.twitter.com/Z1SDgNAWWf
— Iro (@ItReachesOut) September 2, 2023
— Teresa N (@teresa_nguyen_) September 21, 2023
“I’ve always said unless you yourself are disabled or you directly know somebody that you are very close to, it’s always out of sight, out of mind. We might as well be invisible until society wants us to be an inspiration, until there’s like some feel-good story that able-bodied people can read and make themselves feel better. We never think about the day-to-day challenges. I don’t get to have that luxury. I never have,” Jon told Insider.
Hopefully, his story will inspire meaningful change for including and accommodating people with disabilities. As another wave of COVID surges and increases millions of people’s risk of disability, this is more urgent than ever for all of us.