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Amputee was forced to crawl after United Airlines confiscated scooter battery

Amputee who lost an arm and a leg was forced to crawl through a hotel and spent his holiday in bed after airport officials and United Airlines confiscated batteries for his electric scooter

  • Stearn Hodge, 68, lost his left arm and right leg in a workplace accident in 1984 
  • Despite this, he always kept his independence thanks to his mobility scooter 
  • But that was snatched away when airport officials took away his lithium batteries
  • Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and a United Airlines official cited ‘safety concerns’ – even though Hodge had secured all the required permits
  • Unable to move around without his scooter, Hodge was forced to crawl on the floor to use the bathroom and spent much of the Tulsa, Oklahoma holiday in bed
  • ‘Having to crawl across the floor in front of my wife is the most humiliating thing’ said Hodge, who wants his case heard by Canada’s Human Rights Commission
  • In an email sent to Hodge by a United Airlines complaint resolution official, they said: ‘It appears we were in violation of federal disability requirements’ 

An amputee has spoken of the humiliation he suffered after he was forced to crawl on his belly during a holiday celebrating his 43rd wedding anniversary because United Airlines confiscated batteries for his electric scooter.

Despite losing his left arm and right leg in a workplace accident in 1984, Stearn Hodge, 68, has always retained his independence and dignity thanks to his mobility scooter that allows him to enjoy holidays with his beloved wife, Jan.

But that dignity was snatched away when Calgary International Airport and United Airlines demanded he leave his $2,000 lithium batteries behind for ‘safety reasons’ – even though Hodge had secured all the required permits beforehand.   

Unable to move around without his scooter, Hodge was forced to crawl on the floor in front of his wife to use the bathroom and spent much of the holiday in bed – something he described as ‘the most humiliating experience I can think of.’ 

Now the former contractor, from British Columbia, wants his case heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and told CBA: ‘It unmasks how real my disability is… I haven’t been the same since.’

On February 26, 2017, Hodge and his wife were preparing to board a flight to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to celebrate their milestone.

But an agent with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and a United Airlines official cited ‘safety concerns’ and told Hodge to remove the battery from his scooter and fly without it.

Despite losing his left arm and right leg in a workplace accident in 1984, Stearn Hodge, 68, has always retained his independence and dignity thanks to his mobility scooter that allows him to enjoy holidays with his beloved wife, Jan

While lithium-ion batteries are a potential fire hazard, global standards issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) allow people with disabilities to travel with compact lithium batteries for medical devices in carry-on luggage.

Hodge said that neither CATSA or United Airlines officials would listen to or read his written approval from the airline and his IATA documents in support.

‘They’re taking my legs — and not only that, my dignity,’ said Hodge, who can only wear a prosthetic leg for a short period of time due to pain and risk of infection.

To add further insult, after being told he couldn’t bring his batteries on board, a CATSA agent insensitively suggested he get a wheelchair instead. 

‘How’s a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair? How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand? But that shouldn’t even have to come up,’ he said.

Hodge’s wife Jan had recently undergone cancer treatment, which affected her spine, meaning she couldn’t push a wheelchair for her husband either.

In an email sent to Hodge by a United Airlines complaint resolution official, they said: ‘it appears we were in violation of federal disability requirements,’ and offered an $800 travel certificate and apologized for the ‘inconvenience.’  

‘Inconvenience is when it rains on your holiday,’ said Hodge. ‘This was a … life-changing moment for me and my wife.’  

On May 9, Hodge’s lawyer, John Burns, will ask a Federal Court judge to compel the commission to hear the case.

‘It’s a failure of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to grant access to the remedy that the statute provides,’ said Burns.

The Canadian Human Rights Act allows for up to $20,000 in damages for each count of pain and suffering, with a further maximum of $20,000 if the discrimination is ‘willful or reckless.’

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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