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Air travel can be dangerous for passengers with disabilities

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During the busy holiday travel season, everyone suffers from the stress and strain that accompanies flying today. Unfortunately, travelers with disabilities face even more barriers to air travel such as damaged wheelchairs, delayed assistance and untrained airline staff. These obstacles are not only inconvenient and uncomfortable, but can be dangerous.

One of the dangers passengers with disabilities face is long wait times in aisle chairs. These one-size-fits-all chairs are used when an airplane aisle is too narrow for a personal wheelchair to fit. Prolonged sitting in this type of short-term use chair can cause pressure sores, blood clots and even death. In addition, lack of training for airline staff to safely transfer people with disabilities to and from wheelchairs and airplane seats leads to increased risk of injury for passengers. A bump into an armrest can cause cuts, bruises or even broken bones.

“The way things are now, flying with a disability is a danger,” said Charles Brown, national senior vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Earlier this year, I was injured when being transferred from a wheelchair to an aisle chair to board a plane for a cross-country flight. And again, when transferring to my seat. I ended up with a fracture that led to a serious infection, months in the hospital and follow up visits. If there were more standards and training for staff assisting passengers with disabilities, this would not have happened.”

Additionally, airplane restrooms are too small and inaccessible for people who use mobility devices, leaving people to resort to extreme and unhealthy alternatives.

This holiday season, Paralyzed Veterans of America, an organization dedicated to empowering veterans and fighting for the civil rights of all people with disabilities, is alerting the public to the dangers commonly faced during air travel and asking for support of their efforts to ensure safe and accessible travel for all.

“This is a matter of basic civil rights for all people with disabilities,” said David Zurfluh, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We’ve been leading the charge for accessibility in airports and on planes, but now we need the public to help demand change. We are on a mission to create a world where independent living is a reality for everyone. By supporting our efforts, the American public is showing lawmakers that accessible air travel is an important issue that demands action.”

More than one in four Americans report having a disability, and the majority of those are mobility related. This statistic, coupled with an aging population, makes problems experienced during air travel more widespread than ever.

For those travelers with disabilities, or if you accompany someone who has a disability, the most important thing you can do is join the fight for change. Sign up for ongoing news and alerts, learn how to support PVA efforts to achieve equal accessibility for all and find resources to aid in planning your next trip at pva.org/travel.

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