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Claim: Airline Forced Man With Special Needs To Crawl


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A Hawaii man who relies on a wheelchair says that Delta Air Lines left him no choice but to crawl on and off its airplanes more than once while traveling cross-country, according to a federal lawsuit.

Baraka Kanaan, who is unable to walk as a result of partial paralysis in his legs, claims that he “was forced to crawl across an airport tarmac, up and down the stairs of an airplane, down the aisle of the aircraft and out of and into his seat” on two different occasions while traveling between Hawaii and Massachusetts in July 2012.

In the suit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Hawaii, Kanaan alleges that Delta violated the Air Carrier Access Act, which requires that airlines and airports “provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available.” The rule applies to any aircraft that can seat 31 or more passengers.

A former college professor who now heads a nonprofit, Kanaan said he contacted Delta weeks before his scheduled flights to arrange for an aisle chair to bring him to and from his seat and to request a lift in order to access the airplane. He was assured by a company representative that accommodations would be provided, the complaint indicates.

Nonetheless, when Kanaan arrived in Massachusetts, no accommodations were made available and he “crawled hand over hand” off the plane and across the tarmac “in his nicest suit” to reach his wheelchair, according to the lawsuit.

Despite filing a complaint with Delta, Kanaan alleges that conditions were similar for his return trip two days later.

Kanaan’s lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Delta officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

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Comments (13 Responses)

  1. jackie says:

    this doesn’t add up- i would have refused to disembark until the proper arrangements were made available- i can picture Mr Kanaan being carried off when the crew was ready to leave the plane. no way would i have done what he did- ruin a good suit ? there had to have been some miscommunication- i would crawl to the bar cart, help myself, while the airlines figured it out.

  2. Scott Ricker Reli-Abilities says:

    As an Advocate for Individuals who are disAbled, I have seen and experienced much of the ignorance and outright discrimination. This is really jusy over the top and one of, if not the most egregous humiliating acts of ignorance and discrimination

  3. Tara says:

    I would have never crawled anywhere. I would have sat there while they figured out what to do. If I wasn’t treated properly I may have called the police and reported such mistreatment on the airline. My fiance’ would have never stood for such a thing and the humiliation that I would endure.

  4. holly says:

    I actually did sit for a hour on the plane with my very handicapped daughter until the pilot came in and asked who I was. The airline stewards all ready left. I said I am waiting for Her wheelchair which the airline stewards said was coming. The pilot got kind of ticked off. not at me but he got the wheelchair because guess what. no one was going to take off until I left. Alittle more to the story but eventually it was the Ramp guys who helped out. On the way back other passengers wanted to help and the airline stew told them no. They helped anyways. Moral to that story not everyone has to follow the same rules. Accept help.

  5. Fitz says:

    There’s got to be more to this story. I was paralyzed on my left side due to a stroke and six days later flew home on a commercial jet from Montana to Ohio, having to change planes once. Everything went extremely smoothly and the airline/airports couldn’t have been more accomodating.

  6. Barbara says:

    There is no way I would have left that plane under those circumstances. As the sister of someone with a disability and the Director for a day program for individuals with disabilities, I deal with this type of issue on a regular basis. You have to stand up for yourself or for those that you care for. Everyone has the right to dignity and being treated right!!!!!

  7. jterry says:

    I myself am disabled and i would have carried him off the plane this is utterly ridiculous.

  8. Rosalie says:

    It sounds like he was on a business trip — maybe he was in a rush. Seems like a pretty good way to advocate for oneself: file a lawsuit — that will get their attention! Those kinds of accommodations should be in place every time, for everyone who needs them. It’s a simple matter of civil rights and basic human dignity. I hope he wins enough money to make the airlines all take notice.

  9. Christine Louton says:

    I am preparing to fly in October on Delta. My husband was debating whether He should accompany me. After reading this he wouldn’t let me fly alone.

    This is a horrendous violation of civil rights treating people like this man was!

  10. Wheeled Menace says:

    Fitz, Tara and Jackie – Just because it hasn’t happened to you that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

    Why can’t you believe the story, why does there have to be more to it?

    The same thing happened to an athlete here in the UK. The airline needs a wake-up call, as do all AB people that think we can be treated as subhuman.

  11. Electric_Pink says:

    This seems a bit far-fetched. If Mr. Kanaan is aware of the Air Carrier Access Act, then surely he’s aware that he’s well within his rights to sit comfortably in a seat somewhere until the wheelchair he requested far in advance was brought to him. I don’t see Delta crew personnel allowing Mr. Kanaan, a man who’s visibly disabled, struggle on the ground, in whatever he was wearing. It’s a PR nightmare, not to mention unconscionable to allow him to struggle in that manner when wheelchairs are readily available. Not that Delta isn’t above reproach, but I’m interested in what the airline has to say, just to hear both sides.

  12. Tendai says:

    How sad but it doesn’t surprise me. We all like to think that stuff like that doesn’t happen anymore but it does. My mother and I flew on a specific airline and we requested accommodations and we called in advance to make sure it was on our ticket notes. She even confirmed it again the day before we flew. We even asked about my mom’s oxygen concentrator that she needs to breathe with and stay alive because it is not a tank but a machine that continuously makes enough breathable oxygen for her without fear of running out like she did with tanks. We did not want to get there and have problems with security or issues on the plain. This isn’t a laptop to be turned off at the beginning and end of a flight. We were assured over and over that we would have what we needed and her machine was just fine. It was the worst flying experience ever. No one knew we needed wheelchairs and my mom had oxygen and many times we had to wait for so long for someone to come with a wheelchair. They made sure my mom had one but not me even when I asked too. Fortunately, I can walk but it is very painful and then at some point I can’t and we also mentioned my only child was six and has autism so he needs to ride in a chair or cart with me so I can hang on to him.

    On the return trip my brother went in and asked for a chair then made sure it was noted on our tickets, I asked again if it was noted and again I was assured that it was (it wasn’t and we had to wait again for wheelchairs and rides). Then they told my mom she couldn’t go on the plane without dr orders for her O2 machine which we were never told in our plethora of calls we made. So she gets on the plane and then the flight attendant tells her that her machine wasn’t approved for in flight use! WHAT?????? They told her she had to get off the plane. So she just turned it off.

    My mom is finally at the point where she won’t stroke out without her oxygen running but still how many other people on oxygen could tolerate a short flight without their oxygen? We with disabilities already feel powerless over our own bodies and not being provided assistance and access that we are ENTITLED to receive just reminds us of our own powerlessness. We get angry and try to take care of it ourselves like my mom turning off her oxygen, me walking even though it means being unable to walk later and this poor man dragging himself.

    So if we request wheelchairs and don’t get them, that is not access. If we request info and assistance with oxygen machines and we don’t get it, that is not access. If we have to wait a long time for help, that is not access. If we miss our connecting flight or meetings due to waiting forever and a day, that is definitely not access. So basically this man was denied access by not providing the in plane chair, denied access by all the waiting while everyone plus staff departed, denied access for not assisting him off the plane and through the airport. So the airline denied access many, many times and denied his civil rights. It matters not that people think he should not or would not have ruined his suit or crawled or waited. All that matters was the airline didn’t do what they are required to do by law which is provide access for those who could not have access it without some sort of accommodation. It isn’t just poor customer service. If they did it to this man they’ll do it to me too and now I can’t trust Delta to provide me with access either. Too bad for them. We were going to fly with them next month when we go on vacation and now they won’t get a single dollar from me. Delta denied access and broke American with Disabilities Act and need to make this right.

  13. Barry says:

    I requested a wheelchair to be available when I landed in San Francisco a few years ago. The Stewardees came back to me and told me that another passenger had taken it. I waited till they got another wheelchair. I then got on my crutches to make it out of the airplane.
    One time we flew to Florida. My handicapped daughter was ohysically carried up the steps to the airplane and placed in her seat. Airlines have a lot to learn.

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