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Heathrow Wrongly Accused of Damaging Paralympian Wheelchair

  • Written by Roberto Castiglioni

patrick flanaganLast Sunday, Irish Paralympics swimmer Patrick Flanagan revealed his wheelchair was returned to him badly damaged while changing flights at London Heathrow Airport on his way to Tokyo.


Soon enough, media outlets disseminated the news with eye-grabbing headlines making the airport look like the culprit.
 
Truth be told, across Europe the handling of mobility devices falls under the sole responsibility of the airline and its handling agents. The airport has no say or part in this activity.
 
In fact, where the airline dropped the ball leaving Mr. Flanagan unable to move about, the airport swiftly provided the Paralympian with a replacement wheelchair.
 
These past few years Heathrow has made very good progress in improving accessibility of its built environment and assistance services for persons with disabilities. It is irritating to read news misrepresenting the real chain of events, and actual culpable parties in the incident.
 
Even more so, it's truly disheartening to see that in the second half of 2021 a person’s legs are handled like a piece of luggage. This is a cultural failure on top of an operational debacle.
 
Across the world, a plethora of committees and sub-groups spent years debating over the safe transport of wheelchairs. But last Saturday’s incident shows little to no progress has been achieved.
 
Hardware, software, and sound procedures exist to ensure the safe transport of people’s artificial legs, but for one reason or another, the industry is yet to find the right formula to resolve the matter.
 
Perhaps changing the point of view in which we approach the problem is key to finding the solution: a wheelchair is someone’s legs and should be treated as such.
 

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