Less than one month after a gay disabled activist was forced to crawl off a United Airlines flight in Washington, D.C., a lesbian British Paralympian has come forward with a strikingly similar experience.
Speaking to the BBC's Radio 4, Claire Harvey says that she was "manhandled" by Qatar Airways flight crew who demanded she disembark from her October 30 flight after all other passengers had left the plane, even though flight attendants had failed to bring Harvey the aisle-sized wheelchair that would make it easy for her to reach the front of the plane, where her personal wheelchair was waiting.
"He started to manhandle me and said I had to get to the front of the plane, bearing in mind I was 49 rows back," Harvey said of the flight attendant's treatment of her. "I was dragging myself to the front of the plane with him behind me pushing me to go faster."
Prior to boarding, Harvey told the BBC that she overheard flight crew discussing how to get "the wheelchair" on board — later realizing the crew was referring to her. During the flight, she was reportedly seated in an aisle seat, rather than by the window, meaning other passengers in her row had to "clamber over her to move about the cabin," according to the BBC. Harvey also contends that her personal wheelchair's frame was bent, and the brakes damaged, during the course of the flight.
The BBC notes that Qatar Airways, which claims to be investigating the incident, is also the official host airline for the International Paralympic Committee's World Athletic Championships in Doha, Qatar, from where Harvey was returning after competing in the discus and javelin. The airline issued a statement saying it was proud to be a host for the championships, and stating that all cabin are "properly trained to provide appropriate assistance to passengers with disabilities," according to the BBC.
Harvey's experience is remarkably similar to that of D'Arcee Charington Neal, a gay black man and human rights activist with cerebral palsy who was forced to crawl off a United Airlines flight landing in Washington, D.C. last month. When Neal's story made international headlines, disability advocates noted that his experience was a common one for disabled people attempting to travel. In an op-ed for The Advocate this month, Neal reflected on the supposed celebration of diversity within the LGBT community, lamenting that actually diverse members of the community are often excluded from events, social activities, and general activism.