wheelchair broken

A Toronto woman is speaking out after her wheelchair was damaged this week while travelling with Air Canada on a flight to Tel Aviv.

Toronto entrepreneur and activist Maayan Ziv, who lives with spinal muscular atrophy, told she departed on Sept. 7 from Toronto Pearson International Airport to attend an accessibility conference in Tel Aviv the next day.

“I arrived four hours early to make sure I had plenty of time because I know many things take longer and I have to pack my wheelchair and board first on the plane,” Ziv said.

She says she submitted the dimensions of her wheelchair to Air Canada prior to arriving, and bubble wrapped the chair before handing it over to airline staff.

Upon her arrival in Tel Aviv, she found her wheelchair had been damaged nonetheless.

“I arrived at Tel Aviv at 10 a.m. and found my wheelchair broken,” she said. “No one told me anything about it, I had to report it myself.”

While Air Canada has now offered to pay Ziv for the full costs of the damage, she says she was initially offered a $300 voucher from the airline.

“I felt insulted and infuriated,” she said. “They eventually did say yes they will cover the cost of the repair but … this damage has cost me an entire work trip, my health (I am in pain), emotional trauma and likely months of waiting around to get my wheelchair fixed.”

When reached for comment, Air Canada “tens of thousands of customers who use mobility aids” and that “they have processes to ensure such journeys are smooth.”

“Regrettably, in this case, we did not meet our normal service levels. We did respond to this customer’s concerns immediately at the airport, including arranging for a specialized wheelchair service to fix the damage. We offered the customer a voucher as a goodwill gesture,” the company said.

Air Canada says it is working to “ensure the device is repaired.”

Last year, Toronto resident Anthony Tompros was shocked to find Air Canada had shipped his custom wheelchair to the wrong country. Instead of it being shipped back from Greece to Canada with him, it was shipped to Germany.

When it was returned five days later, it was damaged.

A recent report published by the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies calls on Canadian airline companies to reflect upon its wheelchair practices.

While the report underlines that personal safety and cost are paramount issues, it says customers’ “personal dignity would be enhanced, and injury and discomfort would be reduced, if a traveling wheelchair user were allowed to remain in his or her own wheelchair for the duration of the flight.”

Ziv echoed the calls made in the above report.

“What I’m demanding is an entire redesign of how airlines treat people with disabilities. We are customers. And we deserve equal rights. There needs to be an equitable process to traveling with a disability.”

She too says customers who use wheelchairs should be permitted to remain in their mobility devices while on board.