AMAMI, JAPAN — A well-known disabled rights activist experienced this first hand earlier this month, as he was attempting to board a flight back to his home in Osaka, Japan from the island of Amami.
Paralyzed from the waist down since a rugby injury in his teens, on June 3, Kijima was
informed by Vanilla Air staff that he would not be able to board the plane because wheelchair-accessible ramps and elevators were non-existent. When his friends offered to help by carrying him up the stairs, that solution was also shot down as a safety regulations violation. Upset and needing to get home, Kijima decided to get on the ground and crawl to the plane cabin, one step at a time. Once he reached the top of the staircase, he was permitted to take his seat.
Aside from a similar incident with an All Nippon Airlines flight in 2002, he claims he’s never been prevented from boarding a commercial aircraft as a result of his disability.
According to The New York Times, Vanilla Air has since apologized to Kijima, and as a result of the recent backlash, an electric wheelchair lift was installed last week.