A Swiss airline recently refused to allow a well known European disability leader board an airplane, sparking an outcry from European disability rights activists.
On April 4, United National special rapporteur on disability Shuaib Chalklen, who uses a wheelchair, was denied access onto a Swissair flight without accompaniment because the airline’s employees were worried he would be unable to use the toilet, according to an article in the UK-based Independent. The scheduled 1 hour, 40 minute flight was from Geneva to London.
European Union law guarantees the right of people with disabilities to fly unaccompanied on any flight. The only exception allowing airlines to deny access is “in order to meet applicable safety requirements established by international, community or national law,” according to a European Disability Forum news release.
On April 20, the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said the incident clearly violated EU law and vowed to strengthen existing accessibility laws for airlines and provide training for airline employees on disability issues.
Freedom of movement is the European Disability Forum’s lead campaign for 2011.