Braille Monitor May-June 1986
Under our system of law the average citizen is not empowered to arrest another citizen unless a felony is being committed. The police may put their hands on you against your will in arresting you, but the average citizen may not lay hands on you knowingly and intentionally against your will. If such an act occurs, it is a criminal offense, and it may also give rise to civil action. In brief, only the police may take you into custody unless you are committing a felony. Do these requirements of the law apply to all citizens, or only to the sighted? Do the blind have civil rights, or are civil rights only for the sighted? Recent actions by employees of United Airlines give rise to these questions. Consideration is now being given to the next steps to be taken:
Affidavit of Marc Maurer
I, Marc Maurer, being first duly sworn, depose and state:
1. I am a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, living at 327 Yale Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21229. I am a lawyer duly licensed to practice law in the states of Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, and Ohio. I am totally blind.
2. On March 19, 1986, I boarded United Airlines flight 295 scheduled to fly from Chicago to Oakland, California at 3:42 p.m. Central Standard Time.
3. Before boarding United Airlines flight 295, I had requested a seat in the nonsmoking section of the aircraft. The person at the check in counter assigned me seat 16-D.
4. I boarded the plane (a DC-8) and approached my assigned seat. The flight attendant near me said that my assigned seat was in an emergency exit row. She told me that I could not sit there and that I should take seat 15-D. The flight attendant then left and I took the seat assigned to me--seat 16-D.
5. When the flight attendant returned, she said, "I thought I moved you." I said, "You did." Then she said that I could not sit in seat 16-D because this was prohibited by a federal regulation. I told her that there was no such regulation and she said she would get her supervisor.
6. Another person came to my seat identifying himself as Bob Carlson, Passenger Service Supervisor. He told me that I must move. This was required by a federal regulation. I told him that there was no such regulation.
7. He told me that United Airlines had a policy which required me to move. I responded that I had a policy which prohibited me from doing so. Mr. Carlson said that I had to move because of safety. I told him that I was perfectly safe. He said he understood that I was safe, but there was still the policy. He then told me that if I failed to move, I would have to be removed from the plane.
8. While I was having the conversation with Mr. Carlson, other United Airlines personnel carried a man who was unable to walk to seat 16-C, also an exit row seat. During the course of the discussion with Mr. Carlson, a passenger seated to my right in seat 16-F, Mrs. Silveria, said to Mr. Carlson, "How about that man in seat 16-C? Why are you asking this man to move but ignoring that man?" At that point, the man in seat 16-C was informed that he must be moved. United Airlines personnel said they would move him to first class. And they carried him forward.
9. There was a passenger seated in 16-B, also an emergency exit row seat, who asked that United Airlines call her home because the plane would be late and she was being met. The passenger in seat 16-B was given a piece of paper and asked to write the telephone number on it. She told United Airlines personnel that she could not write the number because she could not see.
10. United Airlines personnel did not ask the passenger in seat 16-B to move to another seat even though they knew she was unable to see.
11. Mr. Carlson asked me again to move and offered me first class. I refused. He told me that I would have to be removed from the plane. He leaned over my seat, nudged me forward, and grasped me under the arms and around the chest. He said to a companion, "Get his legs." Another man grabbed my legs, someone unbuckled my seat belt, and the two men who held me carried me from the plane.
I, Mary Ellen Thompson, a Notary Public in and for the City of Baltimore, State of Maryland, certify that Marc Maurer came before me and took oath in due form of law that the statements made in the foregoing affidavit are true and correct this 7th day of April, 1988.
Mary Ellen Thompson
My Commission Expires June 1, 1986
Affidavit of Delores Silveria
Mrs. Delores Silveria, being first duly sworn, deposes and states:
1. I am a resident of California living at 3663 Neward Drive, Napa, California 94558.
2. On Wednesday, March 19, 1986, I was a passenger aboard United Airlines flight 295 from Chicago to Oakland, California. I was seated in seat 16-F, which was a window seat next to an over wing emergency exit.
3. I observed a blind man take seat 16-D, the aisle seat in the emergency exit row. United Airlines personnel told this blind man that he could not sit in this seat. First, they said that it was a violation of federal regulations for him to sit there. Then, they said it was a violation of United Airlines policies for him to do so. They asked him to move, and he declined.
4. While this discussion was going on, United Airlines personnel assisted a handicapped person, who was apparently unable to walk, to take seat 16-C--another seat in the exit row. I asked one airline official to tell me why the man who could not walk was being permitted to sit in the exit row at the same time that the blind man, who could walk perfectly well, was being told to move. After I had asked this question, one airline official said to the handicapped man in seat 16-C that he must move and that United Airlines would put him in the first-class cabin.
5. During the time that the discussion with the blind man was taking place, another passenger in seat 16-B (also an exit row seat) asked a United Airlines official to make a telephone call. The United Airlines official agreed to do so and he asked the passenger to write the telephone number on a piece of paper. The passenger told this United Airlines official that she could not write the telephone number on the paper because she couldn't see. United Airlines personnel did not ask the passenger in seat 16-B to move.
6. United Airlines personnel told the blind man in seat 16-D that he would be physically removed from the plane if he did not change seats. The blind man said that he would remain in seat 16-D. Then, the person who had demanded that the blind man move took the blind man under the arms. Another person took the blind man's legs, and they carried him from the plane.
7. During the course of the conversation with United Airlines personnel, the blind man did not raise his voice or cause any disturbance. United Airlines personnel said that he must move for safety reasons. The blind man responded that he was quite safe and capable of managing an in an emergency. The United Airlines person said they believed this was true.
8. United Airlines personnel did not raise their voices in speaking with the blind man or make any threatening remarks.
9. About three quarters of the way through the flight, United Airlines personnel spoke to the lady in seat 16-B, who was unable to see. The asked her to stay in her seat until all other passengers had left, the plane. They told her that, when the other passengers were gone, they would come and help her depart. When we reached Oakland, I waited outside the plane to see if this is what would be done. After all other passengers had departed from the plane, United Airlines personnel brought the lady from seat 16-B off the plane. There was no one to meet her, and United Airlines personnel took her back aboard the plane to wait.
I, the undersigned, a Notary Public in and for the county of Napa, state of California certify that Dolores Silveria came before me and took oath in due form of law that the statements made in the foregoing affidavit are true and correct this 7th day of April, 1986.