Air Canada has found itself in a position to issue an apology to a disabled man from British Columbia. A distressing incident happened after a 49-year-old, Rodney Hodgins, a hardware salesman with spastic cerebral palsy had to drag himself out of the airline as he wasn’t provided with a wheelchair.
Rodney and his wife, Deanna Hodgins flew from Vancouver to Las Vegas in late August to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. The 49-year-old man has spastic cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair. Upon landing in Las Vegas, a flight attendant said an aisle wheelchair was not available and that he would need to get off the plane on his own despite being disabled.
The couple initially thought that the flight attendant was joking. “How am I supposed to get to the front of my plane when I can’t walk? If I didn’t need a wheelchair, I wouldn’t have been sitting there,” Mr Hodgins told CBC, a Canadian public broadcaster.
Deanna Hodgins posted the incident on Facebook and according to the post, a flight attendant informed the couple after landing that there wasn’t enough time to bring a wheelchair on board.
When the couple realised that the flight attendant was serious they were taken aback by their inhuman behaviour. The disabled man used his arms to drag himself past 12 rows of seats, faced with no choice, with his wife Deanna crawling behind to help him. Once he reached the front of the plane was able to use his motorised wheelchair.
According to the couple the pilot, co-pilot, two flight attendants and 8 cleaning employees watched him suffer but none of them offered any help. Mrs Hodgins called the experience “dehumanising”.
“As he dragged his body, I could see bits of his dignity and along with strength slowly fall,” Deanna Hodgins wrote on Facebook on Oct 24.
“It took us struggling, in front of a dozen people as some looked away and others looked on with shame, to get him off that plane.”
While the couple continued with their trip to Las Vegas, she hurt her back while her husband was in pain for several days as he hurt his legs.
“Emotionally, a lot more was hurt. My husband’s human rights were trampled on,” she added.
Both of them are experienced travellers. The couple took 8 months to plan their first-anniversary trip, making sure they took care of all requirements for disabled travelling on their end but “Air Canada failed us in every sense”.
The airline acknowledged that Mr Hodgins had received inadequate support.
“We use the services of a third-party wheelchair assistance specialist in Las Vegas to provide safe transport on and off aircraft,” the statement read.
“Following our investigation into how this serious service lapse occurred, we will evaluate other mobility assistance service partners in Las Vegas.”
Back in October, Air Canada lost the wheelchair of Canada’s chief accessibility officer, Stephanie Cadieux, an ordeal she characterized as “immensely frustrating and dehumanizing.”
Mr Hodgins said Air Canada offered a C$2,000 (S$1,980) voucher for a future flight as compensation.
“I thought – it’s not about that. I want you to change your policy so that you always have somebody there all the time when a person with a disability is coming off that plane. I just really don’t want this to happen to another person,” he added.