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Woman in wheelchair forced to climb aboard plane

When a woman in a wheelchair tried to board a plane, instead of bringing over a nearby ramp to make it easier on her, airline staff watched her crawl on board on her hands and knees.

Now, Theresa Purcell is suing American Airlines for the humiliation and pain she endured during the horrible travel experience.

The incident unfolded in front of dozens of people when the gate agent informed her it was too late for them to bring over the wheelchair ramp. She reports that the ramp was so close she could see it, but they refused, forcing her to have to drop to the floor on her hands and knees to get on board the plane.

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Purcell has Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, a progressive genetic disease that is characterized by loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body. She says that as a hip hop artist, she flies all the time, and airlines always accommodate her request for her special needs and a wheelchair ramp. In fact, she had called ahead to American Airlines to let them know she’d be requesting assistance, so she was even more shocked when they denied her at the gate.

“There was no other way for me to get on the plane so I crawled up to the plane,” Purcell told KHON2. “I was humiliated. It was embarrassing to have 50-something people watch you crawl into a plane.”

Purcell’s attorney contacted American Airlines, but they decided they weren’t going to offer her any compensation for her distressing experience. That’s when she figured out she’d slap them with a lawsuit, to the tune of $75,000.

This story is sickening. For starters, I cannot imagine that it took less time to watch this gal get to her hands and knees and crawl on the plane than it would have to bring the ramp over to help her get on board. And time constraints aside, how can you let a fellow human being crawl around on the floor when she clearly has a need for a wheelchair and additional assistance?

I’m also bummed that her fellow passengers simply looked on as this unfolded. Purcell was obviously embarrassed and found the experience quite demeaning. I know it’s hard to speak up on behalf of another person, but I hope that in similar situations people wouldn’t hesitate to help someone in need out rather than watch them crawl around on the floor.

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Purcell shared that this was the first time she’d taken an American Airlines flight, and it would definitely be the last. While the incident is over, she is left to relive the embarrassing moments over and over again. I certainly hope American Airlines is making an effort to further train its staff on proper procedure, which definitely doesn’t include forcing people in wheelchairs to crawl on board a plane.

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