Here is a round-up of the latest news in the world of accessible travel and disability, including a couple of unfortunate stories: one being the unfortunate death of an airline passenger, and the other being the story of a wheelchair user tipping over in a shuttle bus. There’s some positive news too, including improved access at a UNESCO World Heritage Site and improved airport security screening measures for people with communication difficulty.
Accessible Travel News from Around the Web
- Alaska Airlines Loses Case, Must Pay Up After Wheelchair User Dies — A jury has awarded $3.2 million to the family of a 75-year-old disabled woman who died after falling down an airport escalator. The defendant, Alaska Airlines, was found liable because it failed to provide the requested wheelchair assistance throughout the passenger’s journey. Her family said that, after the passenger was left alone, she became confused and disoriented, which contributed to her falling down the escalator at the Portland, Oregon airport.
- New elevator at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece makes it wheelchair accessible! — After the previous stair lift became unusable, the Acropolis of Athens was no longer accessible to wheelchair user. That changed recently, when Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis unveiled a new elevator on the hill’s north face. This elevator, together with new stone pathways, will make this treasure of Ancient Greece and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, accessible once again to wheelchair users and disabled people. It’s an incredible achievement and I’m looking forward to visiting!
- Man injured after his scooter tips over on airport shuttle bus — The Port of Seattle is expected to pay a $2 million settlement after a shuttle bus passenger tipped over in his mobility scooter during a ride from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to the off-site rental car center. The scooter was not secured in the vehicle, and the passenger suffered a spinal fracture as a result of the incident.
- 2020 plane crash survivor flies again (with the same airline) — On May 22, 2020, Zafar Masud, the President and CEO of a bank, was flying from Lahore to Karachi, Pakistan onboard Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303. After a failed landing attempt, the airplane executed a go-around and attempted to land a second time. When both engines failed, the plane crashed short of the runway in a densely populated neighborhood. Of the 99 passengers and crew, only two people survived, one of them being Masud. Recently, he took his first flight since the crash, from Karachi to Lahore, on the same airline. Due to his injuries, he now uses a cane and a wheelchair. At the link, you’ll be able to hear about how he was feeling before this first flight back in the air.
- TSA will improve screening for nonverbal and other disabled passengers — A number of states have begun to allow people with autism, hearing loss, or other disabilities to choose to have a “communication impediment designation” on their driver’s licenses or state ID cards. The Transportation Security Administration has said that it will take these designations into account when screening disabled passengers at airport security checkpoints.
- ADA is great for theatre audiences, but what about access for disabled actors? — The Americans with Disabilities Act is very clear about the access requirements for theaters and concert halls, at least with respect to the public spaces seen by patrons and theatre-goers. The law falls short in mandating access for disabled actors backstage, and many theatre groups still struggle with inclusion in their casting processes. This detailed piece in American Theatre brings influential voices in the disabled community together to discuss the problem and how it might be addressed. It’s an interesting read for all!
- In December, NBC Milwaukee interviewed me about airline mask mandates — I forgot to share this link in an earlier news round-up, but in December I was interviewed by Milwaukee’s WTMJ NBC 4 about airline mask requirements, and how those policies made it impossible for some disabled people to fly. The DOT has recently stepped in, and airlines are required to grant face mask exceptions to disabled people.
- Daughter says commuters need to be more considerate towards wheelchair users — A woman recently traveled on the metro/subway with her 84-year-old father, who uses a wheelchair. Their experience led her to say, “I appeal to commuters (especially teenagers and young adults) to be more considerate towards wheelchair users.” Find out what she and her father experienced in this letter to the editor.