Delta Air Lines Forces Disabled Man to Crawl onto Plane

A disabled man is suing Delta Air Lines after being forced to crawl to and from his seat on the plane, without any assistance or empathy from crewmembers. Former philosophy professor, Dr. Baraka Kanaan, who runs the non-profit performing arts education group, Lovevolution Foundation, said the incidents took place during a trip from Massachusetts to Hawaii last July.

Kanaan was injured in a car accident in 2000, which left him dependent upon a wheelchair.

According to Kanaan’s video, which he posted on Facebook on Saturday as a “call to action for social justice,” he was forced by Delta employees to crawl from his wheelchair, through the cabin of the plane, down a flight of stairs, and across the tarmac in order to get back to his chair. The incidents occurred just days before Kanaan was to have spinal fusion surgery.

“Here we are in the modern day, and people who are able-bodied were standing around with their arms crossed, watching me crawl under the guise that they could not touch me lest they be liable. So, days before my spinal fusion, I’m crawling through a plane, down stairs, across tarmac to my wheelchair.”

At that point, Kanaan says, Delta “swore” to him that nothing like this would ever happen again, to him or any disabled person, and offered him a $100 voucher and an apology. Kanaan informed them that he would be leaving in two days, and trusted that they would stand by their word and make preparations for his return flight. Kanaan says he decided to “suck it up,” and expected that Delta would be prepared next time.

“I chalked one up to humility, and to things happening that aren’t cool, and people being unprepared. Little did I know, that to my shock, days later, when I arrived at the airport, I would once again be forced to crawl up the flight of stairs, across tarmac, up a flight of stairs, through the cargo of the plane and to my chair whilst, once again, people watched with their arms crossed, talking about the weather.”

This time, Delta employees offered to place cardboard beneath him as he crawled “so that his clothes wouldn’t get dirty.”

In 2001, the Department of Transportation amended the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Rehabilitation Act to “require airports and air carriers to provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts, or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available…”

According to the complaint, in both incidents, Delta employees made no effort to obtain equipment from another airline in order to help Kanaan.

Kanaan points out that Delta has had several thousand complaints of similar incidents within the last year.

“This has to stop, and the question is, ‘What’s the incentive to get Delta to stop?’” Kanaan asks. He suggests if people are disturbed by the treatment that he and other disabled passengers have been forced to endure, that they contact Delta and their local representatives to complain:

“Today is a call to action. It’s social justice time. And it’s not just us. It’s the whole world that needs us to stand up and say, ‘Look, injustice cannot happen, it will not be tolerated, and you, the conglomerate corporations of this world, the multi-billion, 60 billion dollars in assets, let alone over billions and billions of dollars in profits last year, and they can’t afford safety equipment?’”

In 2008, a 53-year-old Florida woman with muscular dystrophy was forced to crawl off of two Delta flights after wheelchairs were not available. Julianna Dombrowski was traveling from Harrisburg to West Palm Beach. Dombrowski told Gadling that she received two phone calls from Delta representatives who said they were “researching” her complaints. Delta also offered to have her participate in “special handicap employee seminars” to give feedback to personnel and “help make a difference for other handicapped fliers.”

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.

Baraka Kanaan - Disabled Delta Passenger

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