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Head of Disability Rights prevented from flying because he cannot walk

20th Oct 2000
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Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, Bert Massie, was yesterday prevented from speaking at an Edinburgh social services conference. Mr Massie was refused access to his pre-booked flight with ScotAirways because he could not walk onto his plane.

Mr Massey, who is a wheelchair user, is unable to walk due to polio.

The incident occurred at the City Airport in east London. Mr Massey had pre-booked his flight and arrived 90 minutes early, three times longer than the normal 30 minutes. Despite this he was kept waiting whilst other passengers boarded. He was then wheeled out to the aircraft, where the door was already closed, and asked if he could walk up the steps.

Mr Massey told reporters that asking a wheelchair user if they could walk was offensive in itself, but it was manifestly clear that he was unable to walk up the steps.

An official for ScotAirways told Mr Massie that the company had a policy of not lifting people on and off flights and that it only carried people capable of walking on and off aircraft due to Health and Safety concerns over issues with back pain.

ScotAirways is reported to have said that Mr Massie's booking had been accepted in error.

The Disability Discrimination Act includes many exemptions, one of which applies to commercial passenger carriers, and Mr Massie is believed to have no legal recourse for the incident. He is believed to be seeking urgent talks with ScotAirways.

Neither ScotAirways nor the City Airport publish details of their policy to the disabled on their websites, although ScotAirways find it important to publish details about carrying children, and pets and other animals.

HR Zone says: Exemptions from any discrimination legislation indicates a continuing acceptance of discrimination by legislators. The cost of complying with legislation and maintaining profit margins are understandable concerns of business, but should not justify continuing exemptions. Discrimination is wrong. Exemptions from discrimination legislation should all have a limited life, and organisations' policies and action plans should be open to public scrutiny.

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