Growing up in the American school system, we were always taught one thing first. As American Citizens, we ALL have equal rights. But that is far from the truth for Approximately 39 million Americans who function daily with motor impairments. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established to protect every aspect of public life, but it has become outdated in many ways. Americans who depend on their wheelchairs experience anything but equal treatment when they choose to take a flight to reach their destination.

By Nisie

Before the pandemic, as many as 927 million Americans decided to buy airline tickets instead of driving because many believed it was the most convenient way to travel. But for someone who uses a wheelchair, it can be a complete nightmare.

According to to Department of Transportation, U.S. airlines reported mishandling more than 800 wheelchairs in October last year. The costs of wheelchairs can get into the high thousands, and they are often custom-made. To a person who depends on their wheelchair for transportation, it can be life-altering to lose their wheelchair or for it to become damaged. Most airlines offer minimal accommodation for passengers who use a wheelchair. They are often forced to crawl to their seat or must trust a fellow passenger to help them. One mom complained that she was forced to leave her disabled son on the plane while she was ordered to exit and help the crew load her son’s motorized wheelchair onto the loading dock. Airlines claim making the necessary adjustments would be too great of a cost. Despite a study released by the Open Doors organization that shows 27 million U.S. travelers with disabilities took 81 million trips and spent $58.7 billion on travel in 2018-19. . But it shouldn’t even be an option for them to leave an essential part of our population out of the simple pleasure of flying without fear of losing their wheelchair.

Hank Scott, CEO of Denver-based Molon Labe Seating, has designed a solution to this growing problem. His invention is rightly named “The Freedom Seat” which is a wider economy aisle seat that slides over the neighboring chair leaving an open space for a wheelchair to securely lock into place. But he cannot sale the seats to airlines until the FAA certifies them for safe use on planes. The Freedom seat isn’t just for airplanes either, it would also work for trains and buses, making traveling a smoother experience by never making someone move out of their wheelchair. Everyone deserves the freedom to travel by plane, or any other mode of transportation.

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