Disability Minister Promises to Correct ‘Long-Standing Problem’ of Airlines Damaging Mobility Aids

Disability advocate’s wheelchair found ‘totally damaged’ after Air Canada flight last week CBC News
Posted: Sep 17, 2022

Canada’s federal minister of disability inclusion is promising to help reform air travel for people with disabilities after a Toronto advocate’s wheelchair was “totally damaged” while in the care ofAir Canada employees.

CBC Toronto told Maayan Ziv’s story last weeksoon after
she foundher $30,000wheelchair broken after landing in Israel for an international accessibility conference last Thursday.

The minister, Carla Qualtrough,responded to the story this week, callingthe incident anexample of a”long-standing problem” withairlines mistreating people with disabilities and their mobility devices.

“We have to figure out a way to end this once and for all,” said Qualtrough, who’s also the minister of Employment andWorkforce Development.

“I promise you, we’re on it.”

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), which regulates air travel,said in an email to CBC Toronto it “cannot comment” on the incident.

But within the next week, Qualtrough saysshe’ll meet with the CTAand Air Canada to convey her concerns and work out an action plan to prevent any more such incidents.

‘I’m looking for accountability’

Ziv’s storytriggered an outpouring of support on social media from people who’ve also had airlines mishandle their mobility aids.

“I’m looking for accountability that doesn’t just recognize the harm done to me, but to the thousands of people that I’ve now heard from that have shared similar stories,” Ziv said.

When the Government of Canada makes a statement, it’s time to realize change must happen now.

One in five Canadians have a disability. To build a more inclusive society, we all have a role to play. What Ms. Maayan Ziv recently experienced on an Air Canada flight is completely unacceptable. This accessibility advocate has taken all necessary measures to prevent this from happening, but Air Canada
has not taken the necessary measures on their side to ensure that her wheelchair arrives in good condition at her destination. Our government is concerned about the situation and we have communicated it to Air Canada. People with disabilities have a right to expect that they can travel safely and that is
not what happened in this situation. Our government will continue to follow the situation closely.

Kristin Hayes is one of them.

Hayes, who lives in Toronto, says her wheelchair has been damaged multiple times while flying.

But she says her trip to Hawaii four years ago was her worst experience of all. Hayes says American Airlines misplaced her wheelchair and took 30 hours to find it and give it back to her.

“And that was after a lot of phone calls, an enormous amount of stress, panic, feeling completely helpless and for many of those hours, not having any answers,” she told CBC Toronto.

“How many times does this need to happen before somebody other than us cares enough to try to help us do something about it?”

Steve Kean’s worst experience flying happened during a 2009 trip with EasyJet to Venice, Italy. The Toronto man says when he got his wheelchair back, its right front wheel was “three inches off the ground.”

“I’m thousands and thousands of miles away from home and my wheelchair is busted,” Kean recalled.

“What the heck am I supposed to do?”

Passengers with disabilities say they want to remain in wheelchairs on flights

Decades earlier, Kean remembers almost falling three times on an Air Canada plane while transferring back to his wheelchair from an aisle seat.

“I think they were more afraid of the lawsuit than helping a human being.”

While both Kean and Hayes say their individuals situations have been resolved, they hope the spotlight on Ziv’s story pushes the federal government to crack down.

For her part, Qualtrough has asked people with disabilities to continue pushing the government “to do better.”

“Keep helping us hold companies to account, because that’s the only way we’re going to get the change that we need.”

With files from Kirthana Sasitharan, Natalie Kalata and Vanessa Balintec

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/disability-minister-promises-to-correct-long-standing-problem-of-airlines-damaging-mobility-aids-1.6584675