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Man Accuses Airline Of Discrimination Based On Disability

Ashley and Jerremy Lorch and their lawyer hold a news conference about the suit.
Veronica Volk
Ashley and Jerremy Lorch and their lawyer hold a news conference about the suit.

Jerremy Lorch was flying to Vancouver to present a paper at a conference. When he was turned away from his flight, he called his wife to come pick him up.

"When I got to the airport, and he got to the car, he explained that, there was no problem with the planes, they just wouldn't let me on the plane. And I went through a mix of emotions, first, my heart just broke for him."

Lorch is a wheelchair user, and his lawyer says when he told the staff he would need assistance boarding the plane, they did not know how to accommodate him.

"The person he was speaking with was taken aback by the request and really didn't know how to respond or what to do."

Lorch was unable to get on the flight without the assistance of staff, even though his lawyer says he declared his disability and need for assistance when booking the flight.

Stephanie Woodward, Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights, says this is not an isolated incident, and she says it could be avoided if planes were made to accommodate wheelchairs.

"In 2015, it's really disappointing that a wheelchair user is not able to take their wheelchair on a plane. The technology exists."

Even if attendants are able to help someone out of their wheelchair and into a seat, Woodward says, this presents a number of other problems like safety concerns and risking damage to the wheelchair.

A spokesperson for Air Canada made this statement:

We recognize and are sorry about the inconvenience caused and we have been in contact with the customer... We are reviewing the matter with our ground handler in Rochester to prevent this recurring.

Lorch's lawyer says they are filing charges against the airline for violating the Air Carrier Access Act.

Veronica Volk is a senior editor and producer for WXXI News.