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The Friendly Skies May Not Be So Friendly For Your Wheelchair
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The Friendly Skies May Not Be So Friendly For Your Wheelchair

Everyone that has ever flown more than likely has a few horror stories regarding layovers, baggage handling, their fellow passengers or even the airport experience. Some of these things simply can’t be helped but when it comes to the handling of personal property, there should be a certain degree of responsibility to those handling our possessions.

Some have checked their computers or other electronic devices only to have them returned broken or not working when they reach their destination. Sadly, this is something that happens all too frequently for those with motorized wheelchairs. The most notable case of this occurring was in 2012 when a woman by the name of Yomi Wrong made the flight from California to Florida.

Once the plane landed, she was forced to sit in the plane for over an hour while she waited for the airline to locate her motorized wheelchair. When they finally retrieved it and brought it to her, it was in very rough shape. The headrest, along with the backrest, was completely broken off. The airline had placed them in the seat with no apparent signs that they had attempted to fix it. To make matters worse, the airport flat out refused to help with the situation due to “liability concerns.”

Wrong’s chair was somewhere in the neighborhood of $26,000 and after much effort, she finally had the airline repair the wheelchair. Wrong’s incident is not an isolated one. This is happening much more often that people might think. And more often than not, the damage done to the chair is not anything that can be seen right away; sometimes it could be faults within the electrical systems to crash your car and not take responsibility for it and that's what happens to us," says Wrong.

Beyond breakage, many times there is damage undetectable by the human eye that may cause the electrical systems to malfunction and even cause physical harm.

The Air Carrier Access Act was passed in 1986. This act prohibits any sort of discrimination against people with disabilities in airports or on airplanes. And while damaged goods are nothing new when it comes to airports, one has to wonder if the proper attention and care are being paid to larger specialty items such as motorized wheelchairs.

How about you? Have you had any negative experiences with your wheelchair at the airport?

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Leave a Comment

  1. beckthewreck
    I use an "Easy Travel" scooter for all airplane travel as I can still walk with crutches and braces. My "Easy travel" takes a great deal of abuse by airplane luggage handlers, sometimes right in front of me. I feel I'm lucky that I can use a $2,000 machine for travel instead of checking my Bounder, "$10,000 machine".
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    1. Chris  Miller
      Chris Miller
      Thats probably a good idea, beckthewreck.
      Log in to reply.
  2. LowPro
    I've had my manual chair damaged so many times in the past, I gave up on air travel in 2001. I started using a powerchair in 2002, and there's no way I'd ever consider taking chances with it. When a manual chair is damaged, most of the time you can "limp along" to your destination. If a powerchair quits on you, you're dead in the water...
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  3. Sassywheels
    I flew for the first time this summer after being a wheelchair user for the past 24 years. I have to say that my experience had its ups and downs. I was very excited that I was going to be flying first class. That is until I saw the smaller plane that my mom and I would be flying on, because it holds about 66 people. My first class experience was the first four rows and I had a bit more leg room, which is more than I can say for some people on the plane, and my mother was able to lean me forward during the flight, so that I can get some pressure relief done. Some cons of the flight: It was delayed leaving San Francisco, I was last on due to a man not bringing an aisle chair for me to be transferred into, hearing, "We know overdoing we do this all the time," and arriving in Kansas at 1:30 AM my trip was off to a bumpy start. Then having the crew in KS bring my wheelchair off the plane on its side and then handing my mom spare parts, saying, "We are not sure where these came from?" Pros: Arriving at the hotel and having the electric bed that was rented for me already set up with a mattress on it in the hotel staff being completely accommodating, was excellent. Doing my homework ahead of time and finding a sister company in KS, through the company I go to for my wheelchair repairs in my hometown, so I was able to get the small repairs done that needed to be done while I was on my trip. I don't know that I would want to fly on the smaller plane again? I do hope to travel again at some point, just on a bigger airplane.
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