[nfbwatlk] Stranded by airline, a disabled D.C. activist crawled off his flight. But the humiliation was far from over.
semisweetdebby at gmail.com
Thu Oct 29 17:18:12 UTC 2015
Hi all, I thought this might be of interest to some of you. I
was quite outraged for this guy. And the comments were
---- Original Message ------
From: "Craig Phillips" <craphi at gmail.com
Subject: Stranded by airline, a disabled D.C. activist crawled
off his flight. But the humiliation was far from over.
Date sent: Wed, 28 Oct 2015 07:19:49 -0700
Stranded by airline, a disabled D.C. activist crawled off his
But the humiliation was far from over.
By Michael E. Miller
D'Arcee Neal in London, where he went to graduate school.
D'Arcee Neal dutifully waited for a wheelchair.
He had just flown five hours from San Francisco to his hometown
without a bathroom break because his cerebral palsy prevented him
using the United Airlines toilets. Then he had waited the usual
minutes for the plane to empty before someone could help him exit
special narrowly built wheelchair. But the wheelchair never
So D'Arcee waited.
Until finally, he could wait no longer. As stunned flight
looked on, 29-year-old Neal fell to the floor and proceeded to
himself roughly 50 feet to the airplane's door, where his own
wheelchair was waiting for him.
"The craziest thing was that while that was happening, the
just stared. They just couldn't believe I was doing that. It
seemed so unfathomable to them," Neal told The Washington Post.
time they came to their senses I was already out of the plane."
By now, you might have heard of D'Arcee Neal. His horrific Oct.
flight made international news. "Outrage as man with cerebral
forced to crawl off plane," ran one headline
ral-palsy-was-forced-to-crawl-off-plane/> in the U.K. "Severely
disabled man on plane crawls down aisle," read another
plane-crawls-down-aisle> . And when United Airlines promptly
apology and a check, Neal appeared to be on his way to joining
list of people who have been abused and then paid by the airline
What you probably haven't heard, however, is what happened
the ignorance, the Internet comments, the wild accusations and
humiliation of crawling on one's hands in public - relived over
"There is a contingent of the Internet thinks that I'm faking or
opportunistic and I just want to get paid," Neal said. "Somebody
said that I was doing it to raise the profile of Black Lives
which I was really offended by."
The first thing you should know about D'Arcee Neal is that his
been pretty darn tough. The D.C. native is African American,
and disabled - a triple minority - after all.
"I was born with cerebral palsy," he told The Post in a telephone
interview Tuesday night, recounting how he wasn't allowed to
acting in college because the university theater wasn't
accessible, and how his expensive wheelchair was stolen last year
in-Logan-Circle-264838691.html> while he watched after a
apartment. "I deal with all kinds of craziness that able-bodied
just have no clue about."
But the second thing you should know about him is that he
doesn't want to be pitied.
"I'm an activist, a storyteller, I perform with The Gay Men's
Washington [D.C.]. I perform," he said. "I just got done doing
production of 'Little Shop of Horrors' at The Arlington Players
plant. We had a five star review.
"I do things professionally in my life. And yes I have a
palsy. And yes I use a wheelchair. But it doesn't make me any
less of a
person. It doesn't make me any less of a citizen. People around
city are just like 'oh,' when they see you. The bar is lowered a
bit. And that is infuriating. I'm almost 30 years old. I pay
And they look at you like, 'I'm just really sorry. I'm sorry
is your life.' Well, I'm sorry you feel like that."
His attitude has propelled him to London for graduate school and
career advocating for better treatment of the disabled.
In fact, last week's incident occurred as Neal was returning from
work trip to San Francisco where, as an employee of United
Palsy, he met with Uber executives to discuss improving the
"ride-sharing" service for people with disabilities.
But it was another company that needed his advice, it seems.
Neal's return trip to D.C. began badly. Instead of asking him
first, as is airline policy, a United gate agent in San Francisco
forgot and seated the rest of the plane, he said. As a result,
nearly impossible for Neal to take his seat, even with the help
special, narrow aisle wheelchair. (His own chair is too wide for
aisles and was stored during the flight.)
It was disembarkation, however, that would prove disastrous.
His plane touched down at Ronald Reagan Washington National
around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10. First, Neal waited as his
passengers streamed off the aircraft. Then he waited for a
employee or contractor to come and help him exit the plane as he
entered: on the narrow aisle wheelchair.
But as the delay dragged on, and Neal sat on the plane with only
flight attendants, his patience began to wear thin.
"When the staff didn't show up, I asked the flight attendant what
going," he said. "They were just doing their job, and they told
'Just stay here. Just wait. I'm sure he'll be here in a few
After about 35 minutes, Neal asked again if someone was on the
a wheelchair, repeating that he really needed to use the restroom
the airport. "He asked me why I couldn't use the bathroom on the
plane," Neal told The Post. "But I can't even get up to the
bowl" in the tiny airplane lavatories.
After about 45 minutes, Neal had had enough. When the flight
told him his own wheelchair was waiting for him just off the
Neal decided it was time to go it alone.
"Honestly, I expected the flight attendants [to help me] once
that I have a disability, once they knew that I had to use the
bathroom," he said. "The next words out of their mouths should
been: 'How can we assist you? What can we do to make that
"I'm not going to use the airplane bathroom when a perfectly
[wheelchair accessible] bathroom was 10 feet from the door to the
terminal. If you could just let me off this plane, then I could
the bathroom the regular way instead of you trying to cram me
"So at that point I got out of my chair and onto the floor and
crawling up the aisle," he recalled. "One of the flight
turned around and was like, 'Oh, you can't be serious.'"
Neal crawled roughly 50 feet on his elbows from his seat in 11 F
door of the plane and then onto the jet bridge, where his
had been left for him. Some of the flight attendants were
however, had the presence of mind to bring Neal's bag and help
the steep jet bridge to the terminal.
Neal was angry, but he was also used to it.
"This is the third or fourth time this has happened" with United,
claimed. Neal said he had missed several connecting flights
similar delays in receiving wheelchair assistance, but he had
resorted to crawling off the plane - until now.
"I mean, it's humiliating," he told NBC Washington
ff-Plane-After-Airline-Fails-to-Assist-Him-336076281.html> . "No
should have to do what I did."
Still, he didn't want to make an issue out of it.
"I went to the bathroom and went home," he said. "I didn't say
to anybody. I wasn't being rude or anything. I was just tired
frustrated and it was annoying."
Neal arrived home just before midnight, fell asleep and then
work the next morning as if nothing happened. When he came home
evening, however, he got a call from United.
Someone had complained about the incident - but it wasn't Neal.
one of the flight attendants who felt Neal had been neglected.
Now a United representative was telling him that the airline had
"dropped the ball," the situation was "completely unacceptable"
that the employee responsible had been suspended, according to
Those claims generally match a statement United sent to CNN
"As customers began to exit the aircraft, we made a mistake and
the agent with the aisle chair that it was no longer needed, and
removed from the area," the airline said
More information about the NFBWATlk