ICYMI: Why Can’t Wheelchairs Roll Onto Airplanes?
S5E87: How inclusive air travel is lagging and why accessible air travel in a human right.
Maayan Ziv is tired of being robbed of her independence.
Maayan Ziv is a disability activist and the founder of the Access Now App. Her work had her named one of Canada's Top 40 under 40 in 2021.
In September 2022, her wheelchair was irreparably damaged by Air Canada on her way to an accessibility conference, which sparked an uproar on social media and a statement from the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
This wasn’t the first time she’s had a total loss due to a careless airline either.
Chris Wood has created an accessible air travel design.
The Founder of Flying Disabled and Air4All, Chris Wood, believes he’s found one of the solutions to long-awaited accessible airplane design.
But why is the industry lagging when it comes to accessible design?
Think you’ve had a bad travel experience?
Wheelchair users around the globe are having some of the worst travel experiences imaginable, because aircrafts do not allow wheelchairs to roll right on.
In Canada, federal regulations require passengers who use wheelchairs to sit in airplane seats. This means that most mobility devices have to be stowed in the cargo hold along with luggage.
But mobility devices aren’t just luggage.
This system is resulting in thousands of dollars worth of damage to wheelchairs, and scary, uncomfortable experiences for travelers with disabilities.
For people who use mobility devices, a wheelchair is an extension of their body. When an airline separates them from their wheelchair, and then treats it so carelessly - it sends a message that they don’t matter.
Every person deserves to have a dignified, safe, and comfortable experience when flying, and now, there are solutions available to make sure flights are accessible.
It is constantly about accommodation of a small niche group, and ‘we're doing the best we can and sometimes we fail to meet our service standards’. As opposed to recognizing that this is a human right — that wheelchairs or mobility devices are an extension of our bodies, and that when you damage even one, you are robbing someone of their independence, of their mobility, of their health. And not for a day. Not for a week. Not an inconvenience of a lost luggage. But this changes their trajectory and the way that they live their life for months and months and up to a year and sometimes longer term.
We talked to Maayan Ziv and Chris Wood to unpack why inclusive air travel is lagging, how accessible air travel in a human right, and what legislation and changes are needed to make it possible for wheelchairs to roll right on, including questions like:
Was the statement from the Canadian Human Rights Commission just lip service?
Why are people are so willing to defend airlines in their lack of action?
Why is commercial aviation the ONLY mode of transport that has no regulations to allow power wheelchair users to travel safely, seated in their own chair?
If we have a template for accessible air travel, why aren’t airlines making these modifications to their aircrafts, either by choice, or through the demand of government policy?
Find the transcript here.
Updates from Erin & Kattie:
If this topics’ got you heated, wait till we tell you that we had this conversation 3 YEARS AGO!
We talked to Andrew Gurza, a disability consultant, speaker, fellow Torontonian and host of Disability After Dark Podcast. We discussed the realities of traveling as a disabled person, where airlines are going wrong, and what can be done to make travel more accessible.
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Erin & Kattie
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