Wheelchair-Bound Woman Sues American Airlines After She Was Forced To Crawl Onto Plane (VIDEO)

A wheelchair-bound woman is suing American Airlines after the company refused to set up a ramp for her and instead forced her to crawl onto the plane.

Theresa Purcell, who has a bone disease that leaves her reliant on a wheelchair, was trying to board a commuter flight to San Diego when she was told by an agent at the gate that it was too late to put up the ramp for her. The agent’s solution was to make Purcell get out of her wheelchair and actually crawl to her seat — in front of a flight of other passengers.

Due to her career as a hip hop artist, Purcell flies quite frequently and has always been accommodated with either a ramp or wheelchair lift to help her board planes. This particular time was her first flight with American Airlines — and she swears it will be the last. Despite the fact that Purcell let the airline know she required a ramp ahead of time, she was denied and forced to suffer the humiliating experience. Purcell said:

“I was humiliated. It was embarrassing to have 50-something people watch you crawl into a plane.

There was a ramp right next to the plane and she was like, ‘Oh, it’s too late,’ so I was like ‘Okay, so we can’t just, the ramp is right there. Can’t you guys just push it right here so I can get on?’ and she’s like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.'”

Here’s an interview with Purcell, courtesy of KHON2:

Although the airline apologized for the discriminatory incident, it refused to give Purcell any compensation upon a request from Purcell’s attorney. American Airlines responded:

“Thank you for your letter of demand on behalf of Theresa Purcell. American Airlines will not be issuing any compensation for your client’s injuries claim.”

On Friday, Purcell filed a lawsuit asking for $75,000 in damages, hoping that she and other wheelchair users won’t have to face treatment like this in the future. Purcell said:

“You wouldn’t want to watch your family member crawl on to a plane. I mean, come on, this is America. I’m just saying there’s always a way.

Is today another time where I have to climb onto an airplane again, where all these people have to watch me embarrass myself again, and I gotta be there, hoping please, I hope I never see these people again?”

What happened to Purcell is horrible, embarrassing and completely dehumanizing – yet people with disabilities or those who are wheelchair-bound are subject to this kind of treatment more often than we are aware. In America, there is a complete lack of representation for this demographic – and they’re often made to feel invisible in a world that was made for able-bodied people.

Earlier this week, conservative Ann Coulter went on a right-wing talk show and announced that people who are blind or wheelchair-bound should be denied citizenship — adding to the societal ill that people with disabilities are viewed as less valuable than those who are able-bodied. What happened to Purcell happened because of the cultural devaluing of those who are disabled, and allowed that American Airline agent to feel justified in discriminating against her. No one should suffer the humiliation that Purcell experienced, and hopefully her lawsuit will prevent this from happening to anyone else.

Featured image courtesy of KHON2 (screenshot)