Amputee forced to crawl on anniversary vacation after airline confiscates scooter batteries
An amputee was forced to drag his body across the floor for three weeks on vacation after an airline confiscated the batteries for his electric scooter.
Stearn Hodge lost his left arm and right leg during a workplace accident in 1984, but retained his independence through the use of his electric scooter.
He and wife Jan were preparing to board a flight to Tusla, Oklahoma, to celebrate their 43rd wedding anniversary, when a security guard removed the $2,000 lithium battery which powered his scooter, as well as the replacement battery.
Watch Stearn discuss his "humiliating" experience on CBC:
An agent with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and a United Airlines official at Calgary International Airport, Canada, both cited safety concerns with the lithium batteries, but Hodge says the airline had given prior approval to allow them onboard.
The 68-year-old had secured all the necessary permits, but claims no one from CATSA or United Airlines would listen to him, or read the IATA documents he had printed out which confirmed he had permission.
Without his scooter, he spent most of his three-week anniversary holiday in bed and was forced to crawl on his belly whenever he needed the bathroom.
Speaking to CBC, he said airport officials had taken away "not only" his legs, but his "dignity" too.
"Having to crawl across the floor in front of my wife is the most humiliating thing that I can think of," he said. "It unmasks how real my disability is … I haven’t been the same since."
He continued: "An anniversary is supposed to be all about remembering how you fell in love … and keeping that magic alive. And those things were denied. I’m crawling across the floor and it is pathetic."
In taking away his scooter, a CATSA agent in Calgary allegedly suggested it wasn't a big deal and told him to use a wheelchair instead.
But Hodge only has one arm and can only wear a prosthetic leg for a short period due to discomfort and risk of infection.
"I still remember the CATSA agent saying, 'Well, you could get a wheelchair.' How's a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair?" asked Hodge. "How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand? But that shouldn't even have to come up."
Furthermore, his wife has recently undergone cancer treatment which affected her spine, meaning she couldn't have pushed a wheelchair for her husband.
A United Airlines complaint resolution official refused to comment on the case, but the company has reportedly sent Stearn an email reading: "It appears we were in violation of federal disability requirements."
They have offered him an $800 travel voucher and have also given an apology for the "inconvenience" caused. However, Stearn - who had a similar problem with his batteries a few months earlier - will seemingly not be accepting their apology anytime soon.
"Inconvenience is when it rains on your holiday," he told CBC. "This was a … life-changing moment for me and my wife." The 68-year-old now wants his case heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and on May 9. His lawyer, John Burns, will ask Federal Court judge to compel the commission to hear this case.