A 68-year-old amputee man in Canada was left to crawl on a hotel floor after airline security confiscated the batteries for his electric scooter.
Kelowna, British Columbia-native Stearn Hodge and his wife were about to catch a flight at the Calgary International Airport when they were stopped by agents from United Airlines and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
The Hodges were traveling with an electric scooter to help Stearn with his disability. However, they were told that they could not bring the vehicle's lithium-ion batteries along for safety reasons.
Despite the couple's protests, the security officials refused to allow the batteries aboard the flight.
Stern and his wife had to continue with their holiday without using the electric scooter. This left the amputee man to crawl on the floor of their hotel, which he described as "the most humiliating thing" he can think of.
Stern has since filed a complaint before the Canadian Human Rights Commission for their bad experience.
Discrimination Against People With Disabilities
Stern lost his left arm and right leg following an accident at his workplace in 1984. He said he could not wear a prosthetic leg for long periods because he often experiences pain and discomfort. There is also the risk of infection in wearing the device.
Despite these challenges, he was still able to keep his independence and dignity with the help of his mobility scooter.
Stern's scooter makes use of lithium-ion batteries to operate. These power packs are known to carry more energy charges compared to other forms of batteries. However, they also pose safety risks because of their highly flammable nature.
Earlier this year, the U. S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration has banned lithium-ion batteries on all passenger flights because of fire risks.
People with disabilities, such as Stern, are allowed to travel with lithium cells if used for medical devices and kept in carry-on luggage based on global standards set by the International Air Transport Association.
Stern said he tried to present his IATA documents, as well as a written approval from United Airlines to let him bring his scooter's batteries, but the CATSA and airline agents refused to listen to him.
The CATSA official even suggested that he should just use a wheelchair instead.
"How's a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair?" Stern exclaimed. "How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand?"
He said the idea should not have even been brought up.
Stern's wife was just coming off cancer treatment, which meant she would not have been able to push her husband around in a wheelchair.
United Airlines Apologizes
United sent Stern an email acknowledging that it was in violation of federal disability requirements during the incident at the airport. The airline apologized to the couple for the "inconvenience" and offered an $800 travel certificate.
However, the Hodges are adamant that the CHRC should hear their complaint. John Burns, a lawyer hired by the couple, is set to ask the Federal Court to compel the commission.
Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, Stern and his wife are eligible for up to $20,000 in damages for every count of pain and suffering they suffered during the incident. If the discrimination is proven "willful or reckless," then they can receive up to $20,000 more.