D’Arcee Neal had been on a five-hour flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. Since he has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, he wasn’t able to use the restroom on his United Airlines flight. This was not an unusual situation for his travel, but what happens next is humiliating and definitely not his regular protocol.
He waited for everyone on the flight to de-plane and for a special airport wheelchair to help him down the plane’s narrow aisle. But the wheelchair never came, and Neal needed to head to the bathroom. As flight attendants stood around, he crawled to the airplane’s door, where his personal wheelchair was waiting.
“The craziest thing was that while that was happening, the attendants just stared. They just couldn’t believe I was doing that. It just seemed so unfathomable to them,” Neal told The Washington Post. “By the time they came to their senses I was already out of the plane.”
The airline has since apologized and given him $300 for the debacle.
“We’ve apologized to him for that delay,” United told The Los Angeles Times. “We hope that all of our customers understand that this situation doesn’t reflect the level of service we provide to customers with disabilities each day.”
What’s perhaps worse is that this isn’t where the story ends. Internet trolls made ridiculous accusations about the 29-year-old activist days after the Oct. 20 incident. “How long did he have to wait? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? Half an hour?” one commenter said. “We all have to wait for things it’s what makes us equal. So he just happened to be returning from a speaking engagement about accessible transportation. Isn’t that just ironic. I’m willing to bet he has the Me-first attitude! I’m more valuable than you! Can’t you see that I’m special!”
Neal couldn’t believe the comments.
“There is a contingent of the Internet thinks that I’m faking or I’m opportunistic and I just want to get paid,” Neal said. “Somebody even said that I was doing it to raise the profile of Black Lives Matter, which I was really offended by.”
Neal said he is still weighing whether he will sue the airline and that he hopes this raises the issue of everyday hardships that disabled Americans must face.
“But this takes place at the heart of a much larger issue about the airline industry and how they treat people and the lack of respect they give to disabled American citizens, who they charge full price.”
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(Photo: D’Arcee Neal via Facebook)