Flying these days can be frustrating enough. Problems such as baggage delays and customs queues continue. But imagine also worrying about getting hurt every time you fly.
The growing number of passengers traveling in wheelchairs feels that way, as complaints about improper handling of mobility aids continue to rise.
“My wheelchair is part of my body,” says disability advocate Maayan Zib.
“And when an airline handles it so carelessly…it lets me know I don’t matter.”
Ziv said he recently learned that Air Canada was replacing a $30,000 custom electric wheelchair.
After being stored in the cargo hold, it was damaged during a flight to Tel Aviv in September.
Ziv cannot bring an expensive chair on board for safety reasons and must use the chair provided by the airline to get on and off the plane.
“The broken wheelchair was purchased on a previous trip when American Airlines broke my wheelchair,” says Ziv.
“So it’s just a cycle that repeats itself.”
The damaged wheelchair of the Maayan Jib pictured after being loaded into the cargo hold of an Air Canada flight to Tel Aviv.
Ziv has had six wheelchair-related accidents while traveling by air, two of which were total losses.
She hates airlines treating her wheelchair like luggage.
Shane de Wilde has said he recently endured a humiliating incident on a WestJet flight.
De Wilde participates in a wheelchair sport called power soccer, and last month the airline had a problem with his power wheelchair while traveling from Vancouver to Calgary.
While loading into the cargo hold, the crew could not remove the headrests to keep the wheelchair upright, so they tipped the wheelchair onto its side.
At that moment, the light on the back of the chair came on.
WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said:
When the plane sat on the runway, the airline tried for almost an hour to fix the problem. De Wilde, who was already on the plane, said the baggage manager asked if he knew how to remove the battery. They also spoke with a wheelchair supply company, but eventually De Wilde and his chair were removed from the delayed flight.
“It felt really humiliating to me because I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m treated like a second-class citizen in my own country,” says De Wilde.
“It’s embarrassing that things like this are still happening in 2022.”
He says he has flown many times in that wheelchair and has never encountered anything like it.
WestJet admits this incident should not have happened.
De Wilde believes airlines should ensure that all staff and contractors can properly transport wheelchairs.
The improper handling of mobility aids by airlines has long been a frustration for passengers with disabilities. Some people are hesitant to fly for fear of encountering this kind of problem.
According to the Canadian Transport Agency, a federal transport regulator, between April 1st and August 31st of this year, 28 wheelchair-related air travel complaints were received.
“It’s like I’m going through a very violent attack on something very important to me,” says Ziv.
Disability advocate Maayan Ziv is pictured with a custom-built electric wheelchair being replaced.
There is a need to improve ground crew training and strengthen airline accountability.
A group called the Ontario Disability Accessibility Law Alliance wants stronger enforcement and spot audits.
In September, both Federal Minister for Disability Inclusion Carla Quartraf and Minister for Transport Omar Al-Ghabra met with officials from Air Canada and the Canadian Transport Agency to discuss the issue.
“We expect CTA, Air Canada, and other service providers to ensure that their services, including for persons with disabilities, follow the guidelines outlined in the Accessible Canada Act,” Quartroff said in CTV News. said in a statement sent to
Some disability advocates have even gone so far as to call for changes that require airlines to allow passengers to carry their own wheelchairs on board and sit in them instead of stowing them in the cargo.
An organization called All Wheels Up conducted crash tests on wheelchairs to investigate how to safely secure wheelchairs to the floor of an aircraft.
The US group All Wheels Up suggests carrying personal wheelchairs on board and securing them to the floor rather than stow them in the cargo hold.
Earlier this year, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged to work toward asking airlines to allow passengers to remain in their wheelchairs.
“We know this won’t happen overnight, but it’s a goal we must work to achieve,” said Buttigieg.
“I want to be able to sit in my wheelchair on the plane,” said Ziv. “I can sit on trains and cruise ships. In fact, there is no other form of transportation that requires me to get out of my wheelchair.”
CTV News Vancouver’s Shannon Patterson File
Passengers in wheelchairs speak out against airlines
Source link Passengers in wheelchairs speak out against airlines