Airplanes are Inaccessible

CW: Death

In 2016, Tim Rose was denied entrance on an Air Canada aircraft due to the size of his motorized wheelchair. Now, The Canadian Transportation Agency has determined that the country’s largest airline should do more to accommodate passengers with mobility equipment. Rose, who resides in Toronto, was planning to travel to Cleveland, Ohio. Rose planned to give a talk on disability awareness and large businesses.

When he called to book his flight, Air Canada told him that his wheelchair was like oversized luggage: if it didn’t fit, it didn’t fit. Rose uses a power wheelchair that is designed for his specific needs. As a result, he was forced to drive.

Rose took the matter to the transportation agency. The agency is a quasi-judicial panel that makes decisions on federally regulated transit, with the assistance of ARCH Disability Law Centre.

The tribunal found that if Air Canada receives at least 21 days’ notice that a passenger’s wheelchair will not fit on a plane, the airline must find a method to transport the client and their wheelchair on the day they intend to go. If it is not “reasonably possible,” the airline must accommodate them the day before or after the flight, according to the Aug. 11 decision.

Flying is also risky for those who use mobility devices. Since the end of 2018, the country’s top airlines have lost or damaged at least 15,425 wheelchairs or scooters. 10,548 wheelchairs or scooters were lost, damaged, delayed, or stolen in 2019, the first full year of reporting. That works out to about 29 each day. By 2020, it had fallen to 3,464, or 9.5 per day. Passengers reported 712 mishandled devices, or nearly eight per day, in the first quarter of 2021.

In 2021, Engracia Figueroa died after developing a pressure sore, which subsequently became infected. She developed the sore after using a wheelchair that was loaned to her after her wheelchair was damaged by United Airlines.

Air travel should be accessible for people with various disabilities. Without accessible air travel, people with disabilities miss out on attending events, going on vacations, and even medical care. It should not be commonplace for medical equipment to become damaged on a flight. Hopefully in the future, people will be able to remain in their wheelchairs during flights.


Brooks, Laken. “Disability Advocate Engracia Figueroa Died after an Airline Damaged Her Wheelchair.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 9 Nov. 2021,

Harrison , Lane. “Toronto Man Wins Disability Accommodation Fight Against Air Canada | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 9 Sept. 2023,

Sampson, Hannah. “Airlines Have Lost or Damaged More than 15,000 Wheelchairs since Late 2018.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 June 2021,

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