LANSING, Mich., March 24, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading voices in Michigan for the rights of persons with disabilities have joined together to oppose Detroit Metropolitan Airport's plan to create separate bus drop-off and pick-up points at the McNamara Terminal for passengers with disabilities.
Warriors On Wheels of Metropolitan Detroit, a group that was incorrectly identified by Detroit Metro last week as supportive of its discriminatory plan, joins the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, and Michael Harris, an important representative of the Paralyzed Veterans of American Michigan Chapter, in opposition to the plan.
Lisa Franklin, Warriors On Wheels' Founder / President, says officials at Detroit Metro purposefully misrepresented her position.
"Without our permission, Detroit Metro officials told members of the Airport Authority Board that we were supportive of their plan, even going so far as to include us in their PowerPoint presentation," Franklin said. "We are vehemently opposed to this plan, which attempts to subject persons with disabilities to discriminatory practices."
Others agreed with Franklin's position.
"Their plan is flat-out discriminatory and, frankly, outrageous," said Michael F. Harris, government relations director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Michigan Chapter. "The disability community has fought long and hard for decades to be treated equally and with respect, and this is a major step backward for no good reason whatsoever."
Harris said having separate facilities for persons with disabilities at the terminal will call unwanted attention to passengers with disabilities and relegate them to second-class status. Under the airport's plan, able-bodied passengers using public buses will be dropped off first at the far end of a nearly mile-long parking structure across the street from the terminal. Buses will then exit the airport and enter again to drop off passengers with physical limitations at the terminal. For pick-ups, passengers with disabilities will have to make their way across the street to the parking garage.
"The airport's plan is a major blow to the civil rights of people with disabilities" said Fred Wurtzel, spokesperson for the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. "Airport officials owe it to people with disabilities to follow the law and make pick up and drop off points accessible for all."
More recently, two Lansing-area passengers with disabilities sued the airport and last month filed a request for an injunction in U.S. District Court to prevent the airport from implementing the plan. The court has yet to rule on the injunction.
"The solution is easy – drop off all passengers directly at the terminal, which is how it was done for years," said Jason Turkish, managing partner of Nyman Turkish, whose firm is representing the plaintiffs. "The law simply does not allow for persons with disabilities to be subjected to separate accommodations in order to gain access to a publicly funded airport. An integrated stop will suffice, but put it closer to check-in so those with disabilities have an easier time."
Turkish said the airport's failure to address the inaccessible facilities for persons with disabilities also "passes the buck" to transportation providers, who will have to ask passengers whether or not they have a disability, circle the airport multiple times to use the additional stop causing delay for all travelers, and load and unload luggage multiple times at each stop as opposed to servicing a single integrated location. All while further stigmatizing those with disabilities who are simply trying to get to their flights.
Harris said others in the disabled community are upset about the airport's plan and are considering other travel options and means of protest. Harris attempted to share his views last week at a public Wayne County Airport Authority meeting but was allowed only five minutes to speak by Board Chair Sue Hall, who granted the airport's general counsel Brian Sadek unlimited time. Harris was told to return next month if he wants to finish his comments.
"I guess I should have expected that kind of treatment," said Harris, who himself is a paralyzed veteran, "considering how they're treating passengers with disabilities."
Franklin echoed his comments, voicing concern that the Airport would attempt to deceive its own Board into thinking Warriors on Wheels had endorsed separate treatment for persons with disabilities rather than a return to the accessible, and integrated location at International Arrivals, which worked for years prior to the Airport unilaterally moving public transportation to the farthest location possible. "What the Airport did, and in particular what their attorney did by including us in his PowerPoint presentation to suggest we had supported this plan, when in fact we just came out for a tour of the facilities, was downright deceitful and dishonest."
Contact: TJ Bucholz, 517.657.3944
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SOURCE National Federation of the Blind of Michigan