Photo Credit: United Airlines
Disability Activist Dies From Sores Caused By United Airlines 'Destroying' Her Wheelchair
Business Insider is reporting that Engracia Figueroa — a disability activist — died after the beleaguered airline “destroyed” her wheelchair.
The outlet is reporting that Figueroa — who took a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to the Care Can’t Wait rally in Washington, DC — was subsequently forced to use non-custom wheelchairs. Figueroa, an amputee who also suffered from a spinal cord injury, got sores from not using the correct wheelchair for her disability.
The sores, according to the disability group representing her interests, caused her untimely death.
Figueroa was only 51 years old when she died of her injuries.
In a statement released before her death, Figueroa said that United Airlines eventually agreed to replace the broken customized wheelchair, but the physical and emotional toll it took on her body was insurmountable.
“United Airlines just redisabled me,” she said. “Nobody should have to live in fear that they will lose their independence due to an airplane ride, but for people with disabilities, that’s exactly what we have to go through every time we step on a plane.”
Unfortunately, according to Business Insider, Figueroa’s story is a common one. Every year, thousands of wheelchairs are broken by airlines in the United States. The problem is so pervasive, in fact, that Sen. Tammy Duckworth — herself a disabled veteran — has spoken out about the practice.
“It’s like they’re breaking my legs every 3-4 flights,” she said.
Social media reacts to the United Airlines news
Once news of Figueroa’s death made its way to social media, disability rights groups began circulating a hashtag in support of seeking justice on her behalf.
The tag, #justiceforEngracia began popping up on Instagram and other social media platforms.
“Yesterday, I read a news story that broke my heart,” Instagram user @andrewgurza— a wheelchair bound man wrote. “United Airlines damaged Engracia Figueroa, a disability rights activist’s, wheelchair, and the replacement they gave her caused a skin ulcer which led to her death. United Airlines’ negligence caused the death of a disabled person. The next time you think disabled people are over-reacting about damaged chairs, think of this.”
According to Bloomberg News, United issued the following statement:
“We were saddened to hear about Ms. Figueroa’s passing, and we offer our condolences to her friends and family,” a United spokesperson said in a statement Sunday.