The BBC reported on a story about Justin Levene, a paraplegic man, dragging himself along the floor through Luton Airport after his self-propelling wheelchair was left behind on a flight.
Justin is an International wheelchair athlete and also trains and mentors disabled athletes.
When Justin was 20 he coughed, herniated a disc and the surgery to repair the damage left him paralysed below the waist.
Only if you are reliant on a wheelchair for independence can you understand how losing your wheelchair would feel. Suddenly you are no longer to be in control and many disabled people spend years trying to regain the control and independence and so when this happened, I can understand the frustration!
Airport staff offered to transport Justin in an airport chair, I am not sure what type was offered but he said that it was one where he couldn’t propel himself and airport rules meant they would have to strap him in!
That may not sound too terrible but I know that instant fear of loss of control coupled with the anger that his wheelchair was left behind and of course this isn’t just now, this is until his chair is returned to him!
So Justin chose to refuse the help and dragged himself through baggage claim and customs until he got a luggage trolley and he then sat on that and used his hands to push. He told staff that he easily gets pressure sores and so was concerned about being left in the airport chair!
So this is an open door for the people on social media to have their opinion!
I don’t have to tell you that Social Media can be a blessing and a curse and so this has allowed the keyboard warriors to jump in with their poisonous opinions, I have chosen not to share the worst of the posts!
I do however pay attention to the posts of people who are in a situation to be able to judge this and again it has been very mixed. Some like BBC’s Frank Gardner have backed Justin fully whilst others have said they understand but they think that his actions have had a negative impact on disability awareness!
So Justin Levene Right or Wrong?
No one can tell him if he is right or wrong! Justin was the one in this situation, how was he feeling after a trip and a flight? After all air travel and travel in general is mentally and physically tiring and add disability into the mix and that fatigue is multiplied greatly.
Then being told that a wheelchair that literally allows you to live everyday independently is not on the flight, that would then throw any of us and we can’t actually fully know how this made Justin feel!
So the only person that can fully answer the question is Justin himself!
Justin Levene has since said he is dropping the legal action against Luton Airport.
Luton Airport has since purchased 10 self propelled wheelchairs and has established a loan service where peoplke will be given a free loan of replacement equipment that is lost or damaged as well as free return of the items.
Also if people notify the airport ahead of time, there can be specialised mobility equipment in place that will be sourced by a local disability resource centre.
“This was never about money, it was about trying get a change in policy. I am happy to drop my legal claim because Luton has taken on board my concerns and improved their disabled facilities for the better.”
No matter what your views were on this, the change that has resulted can only be good and is because Justin highlighted his issues at Luton Airport. It is a shame that it takes something like this before Airports and businesses do what they should already be doing!