D’Arcee Neal, Disabled Passenger, Had To Crawl Off United Airlines Flight
D’Arcee Neal, a disabled man from Virginia, was forced to crawl out of a United Airlines plane to get to the bathroom because the company failed to provide him with a wheelchair. The irony of this story is that the incident occurred as Neal was returning from a meeting about disabled accessibility policies in California.
D’Arcee Neal, an activist and the manager of Institutional Giving at United Cerebral Palsy, is back in the news – and once more it is wheelchair related.
Last week, Neal flew to San Francisco, California where he met with the heads of Uber to talk about what they can do to make their vehicles more accessible to disabled clients. The company has been blasted by several handicapped people, who were either turned away or unable to use their services.
Mr. Neal, who suffers from cerebral palsy, boarded a United Airlines flight to return to Washington, D.C., but when he landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, there was a mix-up, which led to him crawling on the floor to get to the bathroom.
According to Neal, upon landing, he was told to wait 15 minutes because they did not have the specialized wheelchair to take disabled passengers down the airplane aisle. He patiently waited for 15 minutes despite the fact that he urgently needed to go to the restroom.
He was told to wait another 15 minutes and after the 6-hour flight, Neal simply could not hold it, so he crawled to the doorway where he had his regular wheelchair waiting. The 29-year-old said he was embarrassed by the fact that the crew just stood there and watched him wiggle his way to the exit – no one offered to help.
The advocate did an interview with a local Washington TV station where he said:
“I was trying to get them to understand that this is why I don’t want to wait another 15 to 20 minutes,”
The famous member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC went on to add:
“I was like, ‘I don’t have time for this. I decided to get out and crawl down the plane to my chair. I expected them to ask to assist me, but they just stared.”
Mr. Neal told the reporter that he did not expect an apology from the company because he had been in similar situations before and never received a phone call. However, to his surprise, he did receive $300 and a full apology from the company that read:
“As customers began to exit the aircraft, we made a mistake and told the agent with the aisle chair that it was no longer needed, and it was removed from the area.When we realized our error — that Mr. Neal was onboard and needed the aisle chair — we arranged to have it brought back, but it arrived too late.”
Since the incident, several people have contacted Neal asking him to join in filing a class action lawsuit against the airline industry for problems with disability access. Neal is seriously weighing his options at the moment.
Last year, Neal was in the news after someone stole his wheelchair outside of his friend’s home. Neal, who was house sitting, had his wheels snatched because he left them out, not to bring dirt into the apartment. The activist explained:
“It’s not a phone, or bicycle. It’s like someone literally took the bones out of your legs.”
It appears that the $5,000 wheelchair, which was insured, was never found.