Disability rights activists mourning the loss of a friend and colleague want the airline industry to ensure mobility equipment, like wheelchairs, are appropriately cared for during travel. Engracia Figueroa passed away last week after several months of battling with United Airlines to replace her wheelchair.
Figueroa’s wheelchair was damaged while traveling over the summer, and the replacement wheelchair provided did not properly support her needs. For people without mobility challenges, this might not seem like a big deal. Still, for Figueroa, who had particular physical support and mobility requirements, it was literally a matter of life and death.
An ABC News article from July described how Figueroa’s $30,000 wheelchair was severely damaged in the cargo hold of a United Airlines flight. At the time, Figueroa said it took two months to replace the wheelchair. For Figueroa, the device allowed greater independence that was not provided by the loaner chair.
Read more from Hand in Hand below about the demand and what happened due to United’s carelessness.
While Engracia did not ask for this fight against United, she felt she had a duty to bring awareness to this pervasive issue in the airline industry. On average, airlines damage or destroy 29 wheelchairs per day. As Engracia’s story shows, the consequences of this ableism and mistreatment are devastating.
Engracia said in multiple interviews, “Mobility devices are an extension of our bodies. When they are damaged or destroyed, we become re-disabled. Until the airlines learn how to treat our devices with the care and respect they deserve, flying remains inaccessible.”
Ultimately, United Airlines agreed to fully replace Engracia’s chair valued at $30,000. However, the months in which they fought against the replacement took a toll on her body.
While fighting with United to replace her chair, Engracia was forced to use a loaner chair that was not properly fitted to Engracia’s body. This further exacerbated her pressure sore and caused muscle spasms, severe edema, and an inability to eat, as well as two additional hospitalizations. The sore became infected and the infection eventually reached her hip bone, requiring emergency surgery to remove the infected bone and tissue. Engracia passed away in the morning on Sunday, October 31st, 2021.
Blackburn Takeover: Photos Of Howard University Students Protesting Horrifying Living Conditions
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More mold photos a student at @HowardU sent me this morning of her dorm in the Quad. @fox5dc #BlackburnTakeover— Jacqueline Matter (@JMatter_TV) October 21, 2021
I reached out to @VP office to see if she has any comment on her alma mater’s living conditions. I also reached out to HU for a finance report but haven’t heard back pic.twitter.com/kP3i2xdICR
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NEW: Getting ready to go live at 10pm and another student walks by and asks us if we’re reporting on the mold problems at @HowardU - she then sends me these photos from a mold-covered picture frame in her dorm at the Quadrangle. @fox5dc #BlackburnTakeover pic.twitter.com/nmbOJLuL4E— Jacqueline Matter (@JMatter_TV) October 21, 2021
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After seeing all the post from #BlackburnTakeover, I have to contextualize the issues students have had at Howard because it is truly inhumane what undergraduates go through. This thread will go the history of civil disobedience and issues with the living conditions at Howard 1/ pic.twitter.com/vxbtzOZ1Bt— 🦂 (@scorptini) October 13, 2021
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For far too long the Admin at Howard has continued to ignore the cries and issues that the students have faced: mold/ mushrooms growing in their dorms, lack or support and responses from admin, no building for classes or tuition assistance. #BlackburnTakeover pic.twitter.com/6ROudKKDly— 𝙉𝙤𝙩 𝙋𝙖𝙮𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 ✋🏾 (@incognitovirgo4) October 13, 2021
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The students at @HowardU have always been changemakers and have made history as a result. I support their struggle for safe, dignified housing. It's the same struggle Black families face against gentrification all over DC. Power concedes nothing without demand. #BlackburnTakeover pic.twitter.com/NOTNjv0i7v— Janeese Lewis George (@Janeese4DC) October 19, 2021
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Day 5 of the #BlackburnTakeover at #HowardUniversity. Students from the School of Social Work set up a tent and have been out here supporting our Baby Bison. As social workers in-training, we must advocate for populations who have been neglected from our place of access. pic.twitter.com/MjskqjvHbf— Zekiiyah J. (@Zekiiyah_) October 16, 2021
After Disabled Woman Dies Group Demands United Airlines End Damage To Wheelchairs was originally published on newsone.com