Rodney Hodgins is a hardware salesman from British Columbia who normally requires the use of a motorized wheelchair. He flew to Las Vegas with Deanna Hodgins, his wife, in August 2023 to celebrate their anniversary. When the Air Canada flight landed, the flight attendant told the couple there wasn’t time to get a wheelchair on board before the plane had time to takeoff.
Mrs. Hodgins alleges that a flight attendant told them that Hodgins would have to pull himself off the plane alone. Hodgins was allegedly forced to use his upper body strength to haul himself past twelve rows of seats, with his wife holding his legs.
Air Canada acknowledged that Hodgins received inadequate support. The airline claims they used a third-party wheelchair specialist in Las Vegas. Air Canada claims it will use other mobility assistance partners in the future.
Most discrimination laws require that businesses or employers reframe from acting in a certain manner. Laws against racial discrimination require that businesses treat everyone equally, which typically means providing the same services or employment benefits to everyone regardless of race. Likewise, most laws against sex or gender discrimination require that businesses treat men and women the same.
However, there are subsets of discrimination laws that require businesses to affirmatively provide services under certain conditions. The law may require businesses to provide assistance to customers or employees based on their religion, pregnancy, or disability.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, businesses are required to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled customers. Certain state laws, like California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, may also require businesses to provide reasonable accommodations for customers with physical impairments. An accommodation is reasonable if it can be implemented without causing undue hardship for the business.
Wheelchairs are among the most common form of accommodations for those who have difficulty walking. Most major airlines have wheelchairs for customers. The Hodgins reportedly notified Air Canada’s attendants that Rodney needed assistance. Instead, Mrs. Hodgins allegedly had to wheelbarrow her husband down a row of seats.
A “reasonable accommodation” does not have to be one specific adjustment. The law encourages businesses and employers to compromise with those who are physically impaired to come up with a reasonable solution. Even if a wheelchair wasn’t available, the airline should have provided some alternative, like a scooter, rollator, or even just someone to help walk Mr. Hodgins.
Should I Speak With a Lawyer for Help With ADA Issues?
If you have any questions about disability discrimination, whether you’re an employee, an applicant, or an employer, it’s best to seek advice from a discrimination lawyer. A discrimination lawyer can advise you regarding the specifics of the ADA, determine if there are any reasonable accommodations that should be made, and represent you in court.
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