Airplane access improvement applauded

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The chairman of the Bermuda Physical Handicapped Association (BPHA) said he was pleased recently that the days of being lifted onto an airplane on a food truck were nearly over.

"My hat's off to Dr. Brown. It's many years late, but at least it's coming," said Willard Fox, as he reacted to Bermuda International Airport general manager James Howes news that the facility would be purchasing a disabled passenger transporter.


The chairman of the Bermuda Physical Handicapped Association (BPHA) said he was pleased recently that the days of being lifted onto an airplane on a food truck were nearly over.

"My hat's off to Dr. Brown. It's many years late, but at least it's coming," said Willard Fox, as he reacted to Bermuda International Airport general manager James Howes news that the facility would be purchasing a disabled passenger transporter.

The equipment will allow passengers in wheelchairs to be lifted onto aircraft with ease.

Mr. Howes told The Royal Gazette that the Department was purchasing the equipment, valued at around $100,000, and hoped that it would arrive on the Island by May, 2003.

"The current situation is in need of improvement," he said. The only way wheelchair-bound passengers can get on airplanes currently is to either be lifted by a freight truck or physically carried aboard by airport workers.

This does nothing for the esteem of the physically challenged, noted Mr, Fox.

"A group of us were travelling to Atlanta on August 12 and seven of us in wheelchairs had to be lifted by a food truck.

"We were removed the same way when we returned. I know they mean well, but it is so degrading," said Mr. Fox.

And this is something Mr. Howes knows will be eradicated when the new equipment is used. He said although his department had not received "too many complaints" about the lack of proper machinery, he felt the number was enough for them to do something about it.

"Dr. Brown told us to try to find creative ways to serve travellers better and this was one of them.

"It's not required here by law, but we are being pro-active," he said.

"All airlines are welcoming its arrival as they will share the unit."

Ann Lindroth, the Ministry of Health's Co-ordinator for the Physically Challenged, praised Government's actions.

"I am very excited. Mr. Howes is right. The days of carrying people up the stairs are over."

She said she felt in the last year, the Ministry of Transport had been doing "great things" for the physically challenged and the disabled.

"Last year they installed the phones at the airport for the hearing impaired and now the transporter is coming.

"Mr. Howes is going to get a call from me," she said.


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