A man who lost a leg and an arm in a workplace accident in 1984 was forced to crawl throughout his vacation after United Airlines confiscated the lithium batteries he used to power his electric scooter. The airline’s security cited “safety concerns” which resulted in the amputee no longer having the means to be mobile. He was forced to crawl everywhere they went.
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Stearn Hodge, who lost his left arm and right leg, was taking a vacation from his home in Canada to Oklahoma where he and his wife were planning to celebrate their 43rd wedding anniversary.
Hodge understood that batteries on the plane are typically frowned upon as they can explode, but he thought he had resolved the issue before he left home by getting written permission from the airline to bring the batteries. Unfortunately, as the 68-year-old man was going through security, he was informed that he would not be allowed on the plane if he insisted on bringing his lithium batteries with him.
Neither the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) nor United Airlines would look at the written permission he had received just days earlier, the Daily Mail reported. The International Air Transport Association allows people with disabilities to bring lithium batteries on planes as long as they are a necessity for moving. Hodge cannot use crutches to get around as his leg is prone to infection.
Hodge was forced to leave his scooter behind and get on his plane for his vacation, only it wasn’t a vacation — it was a living hell. Instead of spending his anniversary at a nice restaurant, Hodge was constricted to the hotel bed. When he had to go to the bathroom he had to crawl on the floor in front of his wife, which he cited as being the “most humiliating experience I can think of.”
Since returning from his vacation, Hodge wants his situation heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. “It unmasks how real my disability is… I haven’t been the same since. They’re taking my legs — and not only that, my dignity.”
An airport employee allegedly suggested Hodge use a wheelchair so he wouldn’t have to rely on the battery-operated scooter, which understandably angered Hodge. “How’s a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair? How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand? But that shouldn’t even have to come up.”
United Airlines surely saw a lawsuit coming and quickly tried to rectify the issue by issuing an $800 travel voucher. In the email in which the travel voucher was attached, Hodge also claimed that the airline acknowledged they were in the wrong as part of the email read: “it appears we were in violation of federal disability requirements.”
Hodge has since hired a lawyer and is seeking damages.