Bus Passengers With Disabilities Sue Detroit Metro Airport Over Unsafe, Unequal Access

Jan 22, 2016, 10:24 ET from National Federation of the Blind of Michigan

SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Jan. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The Michigan Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind is calling out Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Delta Airlines, and its leaders for "systematically discriminating" against passengers with disabilities who use the McNamara Terminal.

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court on behalf of Paul Palmer of Lansing, who uses an electric wheelchair and suffers from cerebral palsy, and Donna Rose of East Lansing, who is blind and a kidney transplant patient whose anti-rejection drugs make her especially sensitive to extreme heat and cold.

Palmer and Rose use public transit to get to and from the airport, including the Michigan Flyer service operated from Lansing to Metro by Owosso-based Indian Trails. Their suit, which seeks injunctive relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, takes the airport to task for moving the loading/unloading point for those buses in 2014 from the terminal proper to the far end of the half-mile-long Ground Transportation Center across the street. 

The suit wants the court to order the airport to allow public transit providers to load and unload passengers directly outside the main entrance to the Ground Transportation Center, saving passengers – particularly the elderly and disabled – 600 crucial feet. The airport allows colleges students from the University of Michigan to use the closer location while forcing only public transportation users, such as those with disabilities, to travel extreme distances in subzero temperatures.  

At its current far-flung location, the loading/unloading zone for public transportation exposes passengers to subzero temperatures and blasts of exhaust from jets taxiing away from the terminal, posing health and safety issues. The Ground Transportation Center, as the Airport calls it, is housed in one of the largest parking garages in the world and was designed without a dedicated area for public transportation.

Fred Wurtzel, president of the National Federation of the Blind-Michigan, called the loading area "completely unacceptable."

"This situation is well-known in the disability community in Michigan," he said. "They wonder, as do we, why the airport created a loading zone at the farthest possible spot from the terminal in the first place. It makes no sense. Someone's going to get hurt. At the very least, this outrage discourages the disabled from traveling." 

Jason Turkish, managing partner of Nyman Turkish, whose Southfield law firm specializing in disability cases is representing plaintiffs, said the current loading and unloading situation is challenging for people without disabilities, much less people who are blind, deaf or have mobility issues.

"Mr. Palmer and Ms. Rose aren't seeking money. All they want is to be able to easily and safely get to and from their flights, just like anybody else." 

Contact: TJ Bucholz, (517) 898-4641

SOURCE National Federation of the Blind of Michigan