Monday, December 13, 2010

Design planes for all people

I read an article the other day about a man with cerebral palsy who was kicked off a U.S. Airways flight because he was too disabled to fly alone.

It seems back in September Johnnie Tuitel, a motivational speaker from Michigan who rides a wheelchair, had already been helped into his seat by airline attendants when one of the attendants returned to explain that he had to leave the plane.

He later found out that airline policy stipulates that for safety reasons, if a passenger can’t assist in his own evacuation, he must have a travel companion.

Tuitel, who was on his way to speak at a conference, claims he has flown 500,000 miles and never experienced such indignity.

He told the Daily Mail that “I was raised to believe I could grow up doing what I wanted to do and it didn't lead me to any entitlement. By them denying me the ability to fly, I couldn't do my job.”
To have a travel companion would be too expensive and if he needs help, he’s sure the person next to him wouldn’t abandon him, he told

Tuitel said that it goes way beyond violating the ADA. He’s screaming his civil rights have been violated.

Most people will agree with Tuitel’s point.

Not me.

If you want someone to carry you off the plane during an emergency, bring a body caddy. Rely on a stranger to save you because you don’t spring for a second ticket? I don’t think so.

I always travel with a companion, usually my wife, so I’ve never been asked to leave a plane. But airline personnel have refused to transfer me, due to liability. Thankfully, my wife is strong enough to safely move me. But even with an assistant, I’m always the last off.

And let’s face it people, if there’s an emergency landing, I don’t want my attendant worrying about me. I especially don’t want my wife sticking around. Clear the plane.  Save 300 people. If the plane is still floating on the Hudson when the rescue boats arrive, then it wasn’t my time. But I won’t live at the expense of others.

If you want to fight a battle over air travel, let’s demand the airline industry design planes so you can roll your wheelchair on the plane and lock down. I hate to fly because someone has to strap me onto a narrow metal aisle-wheelchair, bring me to my seat and then load me into my seat on the plane like a sack of potatoes. Then when you get to your destination, you have to hope that they are ready to get you off the plane.

If they design planes with two available slots for full-sized power chairs, you could get on and off the plane quickly with your dignity intact and you don’t have to check your $25,000 wheelchair in the baggage hull where damage is almost guaranteed.

Design planes for all people, not just walkers.

Then we can start fighting over the bathrooms. 


  1. Nice strong stand Pete. And of course clearly stated. I'll back you on true accessibility for power chairs (even just chairs). This applies to those handicapped by age and it would be great if my mom could ever get on a plane again to see her grandkids.

  2. Welcome to the blogosphere, Pete. I have enjoyed reading so far, and look forward to more. For many years, I avoided long-distance travel because I could not afford to bring along a travel companion to help me with such matters as grooming, much less wrestling luggage and being assured of my ability to get off a plane in an emergency. Hip replacement surgery physical and occupational therapy changed that problem somewhat, and I often travel alone now. I agree with your position on the matter, though, even though I recognize the price that one might have to pay professionally. I paid it for a number of years, and suffered financially as a consequence. Still, I don't know that it's reasonable to expect the airline to do anything differently.