Here is a round-up of the latest news in the world of accessible travel and disability, including a debate over whether people with disabilities should be allowed to become NASA astronauts, complaints about wheelchair taxi drivers not securing wheelchair passengers, a paratransit system shut down by snow, a big-money lawsuit against United Airlines and more.

Accessible travel news from around the web:

  • Could people with disabilities be the next space explorers? — WIRED is out with a new article that asks NASA to consider bringing people with disabilities—wheelchair users included—into the future of space exploration. After all, it was a team of 11 deaf men who paved the way for human spaceflight. This interesting article considers ways people with disabilities might actually be better suited to carry out human missions in space. Would you go to outer space?

Wheelchair accessible taxi van.

  • Taxi cab drivers aren’t securing wheelchairs properly — Linda Keahey, a 64-year-old Charlotte woman who takes a wheelchair taxi to medical appointments, has found cab drivers unwilling to properly secure her wheelchair. She told The Charlotte Observer, who reached out to several cab companies and the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services who contracts with them. Prior to reporting the story, The Observer watched as the woman was picked up by the Royal Cab company. The driver lowered a wheelchair ramp, attached a strap to one front and one rear wheel of her chair, and did not buckle her with a seatbelt or harness. The government agency says they will “randomly inspect” the cab companies for safety compliance. Will it make a difference? What has your experience been with wheelchair taxis?
Man with wheelchair on lift of Paratransit bus.
Man with wheelchair on lift of Paratransit bus. | Photo courtesy Phil Carpenter/Montreal Gazette.
  • Winter weather can shut down paratransit systems — In what some residents of Montréal, Canada are calling “the worst winter I have ever experienced,” weather conditions are making its difficult for people with disabilities to get a ride. In January alone, the Société de transport de Montréal restricted all non-essential travel using its adapted services 11 different times. Some riders are upset that despite paying for a full month’s transit service they aren’t refunded anything “when the service isn’t available for one third of the month.” Has winter weather affected your ability to use public transit? How has your community handled severe winter weather?
  • Woman sues United Airlines, wins $4 million — Erica Fulton was dropped by assistance staff while boarding her United Airlines flight in Houston, resulting in a painful injury to her shoulder. The carrier acted “like it never happened” and failed to respond to her complaints. She took the airline to court, won the case and was awarded nearly $4 million by the jury. United Airlines told ABC 13 that “Our goal is to provide all of our customers with a safe and comfortable travel experience. We disagree with the court’s ruling and will continue to defend ourselves.”
Milwaukee Brewers baseball, Miller Park stadium.
Milwaukee Brewers baseball, Miller Park stadium.
  • MLB stadium sued over inadequate ADA seating — Two women have filed suit in federal court over alleged alleged “obstructed line of sight, seating and access and integration requirement violations” at the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park stadium. The complainants’ issue is with the ADA seating being so far removed from seats for able-bodied fans, with the line of sight potentially obstructed. I agree that Miller Park can and should have been designed better. but we’ll have to see if a judge believes the same.
  • Airline refuses to allow wheelchair user to travel alone — Less than one week after a man inappropriately forced a flight attendant to clean his bottom, a wheelchair user has been stopped from traveling alone by another carrier. 22-year-old Shen Chengqing was attempting to fly with Hong Kong Airlines to Tianjin, but the carrier refused to transport her own account of her disability. “I do not need help with eating or using the bathroom. All I need is assistance to move my wheelchair,” Shen Chengqing. If this had been a flight bound for the U.S., Hong Kong Airlines would have been in violation of the Air Carrier Access Act, which protects the rights of people with disabilities to travel solo. I hope HKA will take this as an opportunity to retrain its employees and set a clear policy upholding equal access.
Chicago's Quincy station.
Chicago’s Quincy station. | Photo courtesy CTA.
  • Historic Chicago L train station renovated, now wheelchair-friendly — Originally built in 1897, Quincy station has served Chicago public transportation riders for more than 120 years – that is, unless you use a wheelchair. But an investment of $18.2 million that paid for the installation of two new elevators has finally made the station accessible. The elevators now make it possible for people with disabilities to reach the platforms for the Brown, Orange, Purple and Pink lines. More work must be done, though, as 42 of 145 stations still remain inaccessible.

Check back every couple of weeks for the latest roundup of accessible travel news. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the know!

Feature image courtesy Storyblocks Video.

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