Baraka Kanaan was left with crippling spinal injuries in 2000 when he was the unfortunate victim of a car crash, requiring him to be wheelchair-bound. As a disabled person, Kanaan is covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against the disabled. The Air Carrier Access Act, passed four years prior to the ADA in 1986, also protects the disabled by prohibiting commercial airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities.
One would think these two laws would be enough to prevent a business, especially a major airline, from discriminating against a disabled man who requires a wheelchair, but Delta Airlines apparently feels it’s allowed to skirt the law.
According to Raw Story, Kanaan claims that Delta Airlines forced him to crawl across the tarmac to access his seat on the plane and to access his wheelchair three times in July 2012 during flights between his native Hawaii and Massachusetts. To add insult to injury, the only assistance Delta offered Kanaan was to put cardboard on the ground so that he wouldn’t get dirty while crawling. After the first incident of the trip, Delta allegedly promised that such a thing wouldn’t happen again and Kanaan took their word for it only to be treated the same humiliating way again on his next flight. So Kanaan has filed a lawsuit against Delta in an effort to make sure that what happened to him won’t happen again.
Kanaan details his humiliating ordeal through a video he posted on his Facebook page.
“I was forced by Delta Airlines, just days before having a spinal fusion surgery, I was forced to crawl from my chair, through the cabin of the plane, down a flight of stairs with no backing or sides and across the tarmac to get to my wheelchair. Here we are in the modern day and people who are able bodied were standing around with their arms crossed watching me crawl under the guise that they could not touch me lest they be liable.”
Kanaan then asked the public to get involved and call upon their elected officials and Delta management to make sure his experience never happens to anyone else.
“This has to stop, Kanaan declared on Facebook. “The question is, what’s the incentive to get Delta to stop? Well, my request is that you would call Delta headquarters… call them, complain that this stuff is happening. Complain. Call your representatives. Call somebody. Make it known that Delta cannot get away by treating disabled people this way. Because otherwise, they’re not going to do anything.”
Here’s the video:
Kanaan’s experience is just another in the sad line of similar stories told by disabled individuals every day. Thousands of claims of disability discrimination are filed every year in this country and despite laws against discrimination, courts most often side with employers or the businesses accused of the act.
According to the US Census Bureau, about 20 percent of Americans live with a disability, yet the issues disabled Americans face receive little attention from the public, the government, and the media (PDF).
Why is it so hard for some businesses and employers to treat disabled Americans with compassion and respect? Rather than help Kanaan get into his wheelchair, Delta forced him to crawl to it. How can something like this happen in America? How can any person tolerate such a thing?
The only way to prevent these kinds of problems is to make anti-disability discrimination laws stronger than they currently are now. And the only way to do that is to pressure Congress to act. When the Americans With Disabilities Act was being debated in Congress, disability activists gathered at the US Capitol Building to urge the Senate to pass it. The disabled activists literally left their wheelchairs and put down their crutches to crawl the 100 front steps of the building.
Here’s the video:
The crawl persuading enough Senators to support the bill to secure its final passage. What disabled Americans did that day became known as the “Capitol Crawl” and is still a relatively unknown element of the debate on the ADA, mostly because it was covered very little by the media. Perhaps Baraka Kanaan’s forced crawl will be enough to start a movement to spur the passage of stronger anti-discrimination laws in the future.
“It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” – Hubert H. Humphrey.
To contact Delta Airlines, call 1-404-773-0305 or call Delta’s Disability Assistance phone number, which is 1-404-209-3434.