United Airlines Criticized After Man With Cerebral Palsy D'Arcee Neal Forced To Crawl Off Plane

Lindsay McCane

United Airlines has come under fire after a man with cerebral palsy was forced to crawl off of a plane after the airline attendants wouldn't assist him.

The incident took place at the Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday, October 20. When United Airlines failed to provide the man, identified as D'Arcee Neal, an aisle chair or someone to assist him to the restroom, he had no other choice but to get out of his seat and crawl to the door, according to WRC-TV.

"I was like, 'I don't have time for this,' and I decided to get out and crawl down the plane to my chair, got in it and then just went about my business and left the airport," said Neal.

— UCP national office (@UCPnational) October 23, 2015

Ironically, Neal had just returned from San Francisco, where he was a guest speaker, speaking on accessible transportation for people with disabilities.

"Half the time, I feel like airlines treat people with disabilities as a secondary concern," Neal said.

The National Disability Rights Network said incidents like this are occurring way too often. In fact, complaints by passengers with disabilities is up nine percent just in the past year.

"In 2014 here were over 27,500 complaints in reference to things like this, so it is not uncommon," said Dara Baldwin of the National Disability Rights Network. "I hate to say that."

Despite the Air Carrier Access Act, which was put in place to protect those with disabilities while they are flying, more and more incidents like Neal's are being reported. According to Disability Travel, the Air Carrier Access Act "prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities."

Under the act, airlines are required to provide assistance with boarding, deplaning, and making connections. Assistance within the cabin is also required. Advocates are actively working on collecting stories from passengers to determine if any progress is being made under the act, and what still needs to be done.

— UCP national office (@UCPnational) October 23, 2015

"My mom ordered a wheelchair for my dad when they went to California for a cancer trail. No wheelchair when they got to United and mom had to find one. Coming home my dad didn't have a wheelchair again and neither did four other people who ordered them," Lynn wrote.

"Mom had to go all over for everyone because the lazy bums as mom said wouldn't look for wheelchairs. She wrote United twice and never an answer," Lynn continued. "My dad was so sick when they got home and he could not walk. He passed away not long after that. They are terrible. I also have cerebral palsy so I cannot imagine what this young man went through."

In June, Theresa Purcell, who has a neurological disorder known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth's disease that keeps her in a wheelchair, filed a lawsuit against American Airlines after she said she was forced to crawl onto a plane and all the way to her seat without any assistance from the airline, Fox News reports.

United Airlines has said it regrets the delay in providing an aisle chair to assist Neal.

[Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images]