Blog | Intercultural Development | Centre For Excellence

Fighting to Fly

  • Fighting to Fly

The following blog post was written by Tahira Ebrahim, Centre Liaison Officer at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement.

These days, it doesn’t take much to get kicked off a plane.  Speaking in your native language, doing math, or requesting an aisle seat is about the threshold to be removed from a flight.  Recently, a new minimum requirement was added to the list, for Tim Rose, of Toronto.  Tim, who has been using a wheelchair for over 30 years, was unable to board his flight, due to the (at the time) height of his wheelchair. In this particular case, the airline had changed the type of plane for the route, and the plane could not accommodate Tim’s wheelchair.  Tim was required to arrive at this destination through an alternate itinerary, requiring a connecting flight. 

Although Tim has been able to fly on other flights and carriers nearly 50 times over the course of his life, individuals across the country are identifying this situation as proof that accessibility challenges remain pervasive. 

On her Facebook page, Tim’s wife Natalie, posted a video, standing in solidarity as an ally, to work against discrimination in the airline industry.  In an effort to change airline policy, Natalie has shared the #wheelchairsarentluggage hashtag across Facebook and Twitter.   

According to the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) forms of discrimination in the airline industry include, but are not limited to not recognizing an individual’s declaration of self-reliance, to failing to assist passengers between domestic and international terminals, to the lack of universal design in using touchscreen devices for check-in. 

However, according to Natalie’s video, the discrimination does not end there. From restaurant entrances, to lack of training for health personnel, Natalie outlines various times where her husband has been prevented from accessing services, due his wheelchair or cerebral palsy.  It is clear that further advocacy and awareness is required on a social and legislative level, on the breadth of accessibility and inclusion needs in various areas of our communities. 

So why is this story of value?  Why should this impact those of us who fly, or don’t fly, or haven’t had obstacles with their flying experiences?  A society that aims to expand its reaches in creating and accommodating heterogeneous communities, also expands its understanding as to the value of diversity that it possesses.  According to Chris Downey, architect of the new multisensory CNIB building in Edmonton, “It’s simply important to raise our level of expectation. We have to push ourselves and society at large to raise our expectations of what’s possible and achievable.”

You needn’t go far to see the great value of inclusion. You can start right here at Bow Valley College.  As the new academic year begins, if you are a learner and require an in class or exam accommodation, be sure to contact an Accessibility Services Advisor.