Discrimination By Airlines Must Stop, Advocate Says
February 26, 2004
MIAMI, FLORIDA--The Ragged Edge Magazine last week ran a piece by Frederick A. Shotz, president of the Fort Lauderdale-based Association of Disability Advocates.
Shotz is one of 13 people who has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Miami against ten U.S. airlines, claiming that the carriers continue to discriminate against passengers with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. They include American, America West, Continental, Northwest, Trans States and United airlines, Delta Air Lines, the Alaska and Mesa air groups and US Airways.
"For people with disabilities who use wheelchairs, flying is filled with horror stories of wheelchairs being thrown in baggage holds and coming back badly damaged and power wheelchairs being unnecessarily disassembled and airline staff not able to put them back together," wrote Shotz. " There are stories of paralyzed travelers being lifted over supposedly removable armrests, and sometimes injured; of disabled people forced to slide across seats and crammed into window seats so that other passengers will not have to climb over us."
"We are frequently required to be the last people off of the aircraft after landing -- meaning we often miss connections."
"The list goes on and on. For people with disabilities who travel with service animals, and people who have fused or immobilized leg joints, the abuse has been even worse."
The airlines named in the suit accepted a total of $3.2 billion in government bail-out funds after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Attorneys representing the passengers in the suit said that accepting the federal money opened up the airlines to private claims under the 1973 law's anti-discrimination provisions.
"The airlines do not want to bother with us," Shotz concludes.
"The airlines do not want us occupying their bulkhead seats. The airlines do not want us in business class or in first class. The airlines do not want our wheelchairs in their closets. The airlines do not want to hear our complaints."
"Time for airlines to stop abusing our civil rights" (Ragged Edge Magazine)
Association of Disability Advocates