A Japanese airline has apologised to a wheelchair-bound man after forcing him to crawl on to one of its aircraft.
Hideto Kijima, 44 heads Japan Accessible Tourism Center, a nonprofit in the city of Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture. The center provides foreign tourists with disabilities who need assistance with information about travel in Japan.
Kijima said the small airport did not have any disabled equipment, and airline staff refused to help him due to ‘safety concerns’.
Incredibly, Kijima said friends he was travelling were also barred from carrying him up the steps for the same reason, Daily Mail reports.
Eventually Kijima climbed out of his wheelchair and used his hands to hoist himself up 17 steps and on to the plane.
Staff even tried to stop him from doing that, Kijima wrote on his blog, but he was able to push past them.
‘I just had to ignore them and keep moving up, or I could not go back to Osaka,’ he wrote.
A Vanilla Air spokesman told the Japan times that the company could not have passengers use the staircase while in a wheelchair due to “safety concerns” unless it was notified five days in advance. The airline installed a stretcher at the airport on June 14 to help disabled passengers.
Kijima, who has traveled to about 160 countries and used over 200 airports, said even when he visited countries that had no special equipment to help the disabled, people nearby helped him board and disembark from planes.
Kijima said he was surprised to be prohibited from boarding a flight using his wheelchair, and that he hoped his case would become “an example of a solution to be taken when similar forms of discrimination take place.
After his experience at Amami Airport, Kijima asked the Kagoshima and Osaka prefectural governments as well as the transport ministry to make efforts to make sure no one has to go through anything similar. They immediately asked Vanilla Air to address the matter, he said.
“Vanilla Air also admitted to their mistake (in handling his boarding) and took specific measures,” he said.