Via United Cerebral Palsy‘s Quarterly Family Support Newsletter
Airplane Accessibility Petition
My name is Sally O’Neill. I am 17 years old. Like most girls my age, I love animals, going to the theatre with my friends on the weekend, and skiing in the winter. I dream of traveling after high school. I want to see places like Ireland, Italy, and India. Unfortunately, an accessible airplane ride is not an option for me.
I am writing this because I believe the airline industry should have to comply with the mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. I have cerebral palsy. That means although I have a normal mind, I still have uncontrollable spastic limb movement. I cannot talk or hold my own body upright. I need my wheelchair to keep me in the right posture, and to restrain my arms and legs. The problem is the airline companies make all disabled people check their wheelchair with other baggage. I have visited my grandparents in Ohio and Florida many times. My parents have spent up to 7 hours trying to keep me seated between them. I don’t have the motor function to sit upright on my own. The airplane chairs are not big enough for a seat insert and do not support my upper body. When my shoulders are not in front of my hips, I go into an extension pattern. Due to my spastic limb movement, my parents have to physically restrain my arms and legs. I have strong tone, so this is not easy. None of us can eat, drink, read, or make ourselves comfortable in any other way. As I get older and bigger, each flight gets more difficult.
There are many other disabilities that have this same need for different reasons. I don’t think it makes sense that all other places open to the public are made accessible to every type of disabled person, especially transportation companies, but the airline industry is allowed to force the disabled into able-bodied standards or medical transport. I’ve heard of an airline removing a whole row of seats to accommodate a Sumo wrestler. If they can do that for a special athlete, why can’t they do it for a person with special needs? Have you ever wondered why you see so few people with cerebral palsy on airplanes? I think it’s because the airlines do so little to accommodate their needs to ensure their comfort. It’s discrimination. I looked up online how easy it is to remove any seat on the plane. I’m not asking for the bathrooms to be made accessible.
I am proposing that the first seat in the first row of the airplane be removable and tie downs be inserted. These tie downs are used in automobiles to keep the chair in place during crashes. They are as strong as anything on a plane.
I really believe with some small modifications airplane transportation can be made accessible to everyone. I hope you see the need and join me in this change.
Here is a proposed petition:
We petition the airline industry to better accommodate travelers who use wheelchairs. We propose that the first seat in the first row of the airplane be removable with the capability to have tie downs inserted when needed to accommodate a wheelchair, or that the airlines develop a solution to this urgent need.
If you’d like a copy of the Petition emailed to you, please send an email to the address listed below. We’d appreciate your help in collecting signatures. The important issue here is accessibility. There are a lot of people who cannot comfortably ride in an airplane, or who simply cannot ride at all. We also want to collect stories of your experiences riding in an airplane. Please call or write or send an email. The more stories, the better. And the more signatures, the better!
Susan Blanchard, UCP Family Support
Phone: 503-777-4166, toll-free within Oregon: 1-800-473-4581
Mail: 11731 NE Glenn Widing Drive, Portland, OR 97220