Monthly Archives: December 2017

Making your voice heard at 35,000 feet

I know how hard it is to bring up my own disability when urging a particular political stance or vote. And I understand that knowing when to seize the moment takes perspective and discipline. But we saw the consummate example of both when Ady Barkin found himself on an airplane with Senator Jeff Flake last week.

Barkin, who has ALS, made a very eloquent and compelling plea to Senator Flake to vote against Trump’s tax overhaul bill. And although the bill ultimately passed, these kinds of confrontations will be remembered as the effects of this nightmarish law start to emerge (and the 2018 midterm elections approach).

Read Mr. Barkin’s account of the conversation below:

There’s the law, and there’s reality

407F885A-DCE9-4480-BDBA-4F0CD3088A79Last week, I published a post about the legal requirements of buses under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I talked about how new buses need to have lifts and other equipment to assist people with mobility disabilities, and how the drivers need to be prepared to help people with disabilities as they navigate their bus rides.

The feedback I’ve gotten indicates that while all of that sounds good, people with disabilities are still having major problems in obtaining the assistance they need in this vital area. For example, the article below discusses the major settlement the government just made with Greyhound. The bus company had been accused of numerous ADA violations. Even though it did not admit to any wrongdoing, it settled the case for $375,000,00

So for those of you who depend on accessible ground transportation, this is my question: Do you think it’s working? If not, what are the major problems and do you have any suggestions for improvement? Let us know!



PS: a few hours ago, I inadvertently published this post prematurely. If you didn’t know what the ——— I was trying to say, you weren’t alone! My apologies.

You made it off the plane – now what?


Holiday traveling is hard for everyone, but it can be particularly treacherous for people with disabilities. I know that with my multiple sclerosis, I must be continually looking forward (to avoid being knocked over) and down (to keep from tripping on piece of gum or a sidewalk crack).

Nevertheless, I (and so many others I know) am determined to make it home for the holidays. And it’s good to know that some of the laws support us in our “journeys.”

For example, federal laws require that most public buses accommodate people with disabilities. This means that newly-constructed buses have to be equipped with a lift and designated seating for people with disabilities. Bus operators must also be trained on effective communication with passengers with disabilities. In addition, if a person with a disability needs to go somewhere that is not along the bus’s normal route, the rider can arrange to be picked up and transported to his/her destination.

In addition, taxis and similar private transportation vehicles cannot refuse access to an individual with disabilities, and must assist them in boarding and deboarding.

As with most areas of disability law, these specific obligations cease if they would become an “undue burden” for the company or agency providing the transportation. But this kind of burden must be based on objective facts and not unsubstantiated fears or stereotypes. And even then, the agency or company would still need to assist the traveler up to the point where this burden would set in. (Example: the agency or company would not have to provide “lifts” at every door, but the driver must be prepared to physically assist people with disabilities in entering and exiting the bus.)

For more information, see the links below. Have a happy (and accessible) holiday season!


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Disability Rights Extend to the Skies

In his book, “No Pity,” Joeseph P.Shapiro talks about a airline passenger who needed to board his plane. Because he was a quadriplegic, the flight crew decided to just place him on a baggage cart, along with the rest of the “luggage.” Mr. Shapiro also references an incident where a high-ranking federal employee was told that she could not fly without an attendant, because she had a disability.

Because of these and similar instances through the years, Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act(ACAA)in 1986.

The ACAA is very similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It prohibits airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities. It also requires reasonable accommodation, as long as that does not create an undue hardship.

For example, I am able to request “wheelchair assistance” when I arrive at the airport for a flight. That means an employee will bring me a wheelchair and help me board the plane if I need it. Another employee will also meet me with a wheelchair when the plane lands, and will take me wherever I need to go (usually the baggage carousel).

Quite frankly, this is a godsend. I no longer have to worry about falling, becoming too tired to continue or holding up hordes of people when I go to the airport. And I can see that this is also easier for those around me. They don’t have to worry about whether they should try to help me or whether I will delay their flight (both legitimate concerns!).

Airlines still have the right to refuse to let me board if they reasonably believe I could be dangerous or unduly disruptive. And under certain limited circumstances, they can request documentation of my needs. But they cannot charge me extra, deny me certain seats or require that anyone accompany me (just like they can’t do to people who are not disabled).

I’ve only had one bad experience with his system: About a year ago, an employee asked if I could walk from the plane to the terminal, instead of her pushing me. I replied that I wouldn’t have requested a wheelchair if I thought I could safely do that on my own. Inexplicably, the conversation escalated to the point where she stopped pushing me, ignored my request to continue, and angrily demanded that I tell her what she had done wrong.

She was clearly anticipating that that I would complain to the airline, and was already constructing her “defense.” I just kept asking that she take me to their baggage carousel and told her I didn’t want to discuss it. When she ignored me, I vividly remember my feelings of abject helplessness.

Thankfully, another employee emerged and I asked that she become my substitute “pusher.” And (not surprisingly), I did complain to the airline and they responded very quickly and satisfactorily.

I learned a lot from that experience and I hope that the employee did, as well. No one said that accommodation would always be easy, but few things are more worth the effort.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!

See the link below for more information about the ACAA.