Declan Spencer, courtesy of the Guardian.
European discount airline easyJet has shown that flying with them is not so easy if you happen to have a disability. Declan Spencer, a 12-year-old English boy with muscular dystrophy, was denied access to an easyJet flight because the company said his power chair was too heavy. Scott Jordan Harris of the Guardian writes:
Declan will soon have spinal surgery that is all but certain to make future air travel impossible, and so his forthcoming family holiday was intended to be a glorious and carefree last trip abroad. But when Declan’s mother rang to arrange for the lift needed to carry him on to the easyJet aeroplane set to fly their family to Cyprus, she was told Declan could not be accommodated because his 90kg electric wheelchair cannot be dismantled. EasyJet only “carry powered wheelchairs provided they can be collapsed into separate parts weighing less than 60kg each. This is necessary to protect the health and safety of the baggage handlers who have to lift the wheelchair into the aircraft”.
This restriction is not industry-wide. Declan has flown with other airlines in the past, and the Spencers will be making their trip to Cyprus with a different, less-dastardly company. It appears that easyJet found it too onerous to round up a few extra baggage handlers to guarantee the dignity and equal rights of one of its passengers.
Even with the great strides the international disability community has made over the years (including the recent efforts of the UK Culture Secretary to promote youth disability sport), it is still all too common for people like Declan to be treated like second class citizens. This is unacceptable. I encourage you to click over to the BBC and watch an interview with Declan’s mother, and then email easyJet on their website to let them know that their attitude toward customers with disabilities is inexcusable. If you’re the tweeting sort, hit them up at @easyJet and @easyJetCare.
It’s 2011, easyJet. Start acting like it.