Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Some of you may of heard about this story in the news or read about it in the newspaper. For those of you that haven't a wheelchair user was asked to check his own wheelchair into the luggage compartment at check in and offered a modified wheelchair to use whilst in the airport and when boarding the plane. He refused to use the wheelchair and instead opted to crawl throughout the airport. This decision has caused a public outcry and most media reports suggest that the airline forced the man to crawl. He suggests "An able-bodied equivalent, (to using the supplied wheelchair) a normal person's equivalent would be having your legs tied together, your pants pulled down and be carried or pushed through an airport."

I find this to be a bit extreme. There are many reasons why people who use wheelchairs cannot take their own chairs onto the plane and it causes less delay for everyone the earlier they are checked onto the plane. Admittedly, I have only flown once but I found that the airline was nothing but gracious and accommodating of my needs.

The wheelchair user in question also says "I made a choice and that was to make my own way to the gate," Fearnley said. "I jumped on to my brother's shoulder then I crawled." I think that is the key here: he made the choice to crawl to the gate and not use the wheelchair and sometimes those choices we make need to be accepted as that a choice between alternatives given. I for one do not see what the airline has to apologise for.


Sangye said...

I agree with you, Karen. If the airline had said, "You can't use any wheelchair. We have to carry you" that would be very different. But offering him a different wheelchair? What's the problem with that? If he's hospitalized, they might have to transport him in different chairs, beds, etc.... What's the difference?

Emma said...

I personally would have a HUGE issue if I was asked to check my chair before the gate and use another one. And I'd really push to stay in my own chair. It's one less transfer, it's more comfortable (I have a specialist backrest and cushion) and it means I can retain my own mobility. Also in all the times I've flown I've only ever used an airport chair three times. Once was when we were transferring between planes. The other two times, one they put me in a chair that I couldn't push myself in - it had transit wheels. And they insisted me and my family wait for a member of staff to push me which was stressful as they left it a long time. The final time we were told we would get my chair at baggage reclaim - and it was on the carousel - NOT SAFE!