Disabled Guy: I Had to Crawl Down Plane Aisle

But D'Arcee Neal was surprised by what happened next
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2015 6:21 PM CDT
United Airlines Flight 297 from Boston to San Francisco makes an unscheduled landing on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at the Lincoln Airport after one of their two engines stopped functioning.   (AP Photo/Lincoln Journal Star, Matt Ryerson)

(Newser) – A man with cerebral palsy says he had no choice but to crawl down the aisle of a United Airlines plane with flight attendants watching—which he calls a "humiliating" experience. "I expected them to ask to assist me, but they just stared," he tells CNN. D'Arcee Neal, 29, had just flown to Washington from San Francisco last week when he was told to wait for a specialized wheelchair that would fit in the plane aisle. But he waited 15 minutes after everyone else had disembarked, and had to use a proper restroom (the plane's wouldn't work with his disability). So he crawled down the aisle himself, and by then the wheelchair was ready in the gangway. A United rep told him the delay was caused by someone taking the wheelchair away from the gate by mistake.

What surprised Neal—a disability advocate now employed by the federal government—is how the airline reacted. A United representative called him the next day with an apology, told him the manager responsible was suspended, and offered him a $300 payment that he accepted. "Quite frankly, I was just shocked, because this had happened a couple of times before (with various airlines), and no company had ever bothered to apologize when they've done something wrong," he says. Indeed, a disabled advocacy group tells NBC Washington that this problem is typical and complaints are on the rise. "In 2014 there were over 27,500 complaints in reference to things like this, so it is not uncommon," says Dara Baldwin of The National Disability Rights Network. "I hate to say that." (Read more disabled stories.)

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