Paralympian Sophia Warner Claims She Was Asked To “Prove” Her Disability Before Boarding A Flight
On Mar. 26, British Paralympic sprinter Sophia Warner was flying from Milan's Malpensa airport when, as she tweeted the following day, an airport handler for the low-cost carrier easyJet reportedly asked her to "publicly prove" she has a disability, according to Warner's tweets about the interaction. Warner, who has cerebral palsy, has difficulty moving her legs and left arm, and won silver and bronze medals at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, The Independent reported, and represented her country at the 2012 Paralympics in London.
On Mar. 28, TV presenter Sophie Morgan, who is also disabled and who had previously worked with Warner covering the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also tweeted about an experience with easyJet. Morgan shared a photo of herself she claimed was taken on an easyJet plane at Gatwick airport, where she said she had been left on board for 40 minutes. "No apologies," Morgan captioned the photo. "Only rude staff." Bustle has reached out to easyJet for comment on both alleged incidents, and we will update this story when we hear back.
On Twitter, Warner described her own incident as "beyond devastating." She followed up later on Mar. 27 with a tweet thanking folks for their support and saying that easyJet had been in touch and was "on the case." Morgan quote-retweeted a tweet from an easyJet representative who asked her to direct message the easyJet account to share more details, saying, "I'm sorry to hear about this Sophie."
"What is the point?" Morgan responded. "Just please start treating us with more respect."
"We're sorry to hear of Ms [sic] Warner's experience," an easyJet spokesperson told The Independent. "The agent involved is employed by Airport Handling and both he and they have assured us that he was trying to ascertain what assistance was required to help Ms [sic] Warner. However, this was clearly not handled as sensitively as we would have liked. We will investigate this with Airport Handling to ensure any lessons can be learned and changes are made to how they train their staff."
iNews reported on Mar. 28 that Gatwick airport had apologized to Morgan through a spokesperson. “This incident is currently subject to an ongoing investigation which is being dealt with as a priority," they were quoted as saying.
Warner's tweets prompted replies from other people claiming they had been through similar incidents involving airport accessibility. "I’m so sorry you went through this," tweeted one commenter. "I totally sympathise [sic], as a sufferer from a ‘hidden’ disability." "We had this with our young daughter (same condition as you) in 2010, when we asked to priority board and sit together on the flight," another commenter said, adding that their daughter was asked why she didn't have a wheelchair.
Another tweeter, who identified themself as Deaf, said, "I was interrogated on a bus the other day, asked for ID and told I 'don't look very disabled' because I have a disabled rail card." Another person wrote, "The problem med [sic] high-functioning disabilities is this: people just 'assume' things if we don't carry a wheelchair on our head."
Both incidents come days after Frank Gardner, a BBC correspondent, was left on a plane at Heathrow airport for almost two hours waiting for his wheelchair to be recovered after it had been mistagged, according to the Guardian. Gardner also tweeted about the incident, saying "making disabled passengers wait an extra 20 mins on plane after last pax off may be legally permissible but it is still UNACCEPTABLE." He continued, "Equal treatment please, this is 2018, not 1970."
According to the Guardian, chief executive of Heathrow airport John Holland-Kaye apologized the Gardner on a radio show, and committed to improving accessibility at Heathrow, including making sure there are "fully trained" people at the gate.