A paraplegic athlete, Justin Leven, is taking legal action against Luton Airport (London) after he was allegedly forced to drag himself across the floor because his wheelchair was left on another flight.
Levene, based in North London, coughed and herniated a disc at the age of 20. When his operation went wrong, he became paralyzed from the waist down. His ability to move right now is contingent on a self-propelling wheelchair, which he believes plays a vital role in ensuring his independence as a disabled person.
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Where to start… It’s been a difficult few months which had made the lead up to this event even more arduous than I had anticipated. Crossing the Alps and the Dolomites, this epic stage race organised by the awesome team @radrace was one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted. 3 countries. 4 days. 600km across some of the toughest climbs. What began as a journey with 3 friends turned into so much more. Countless memories and friends made along the way. This wasn’t about times or positions, it was about the journey and the experience. These pictures, from the end of the 12 hours on stage 3, show the true feel and emotions of the event and was my personal highlight. To have all of the riders cheering at the finish line and then surrounding me and the team was a moment that shall be with all of us forever. Thank you to @engelhai @jan_sprunk and everyone else involved with @radrace Thank you to @schulzandschulz and @pasidude for all your assistance, support and love along the way. To @wiebkelueh for entertaining me on the mountains, bike lanes and everywhere in between. Thank you to Cae @thegolftrust for enabling all of this to happen. I hope that we have done you proud. And most importantly, @owenldnelf @quirkcycles @francisccade None of this would have been possible without the 3 of you. The support and jokes meant each day was better than the last. Sad to say goodbye to this journey but we will have many more. #radrace #tourdefriends #tdf2017 #doepicshit #outsideisfree #wheelchair #handbike #athlete #travel #instacycling #racing #charity #fitness #motivation #inspiration #disability #adventure #determination #iamadaptive #noexcuses #storyoftheday #cantstop #longdaysout #roadslikethese #stagerace 📷 @carlosfernandezlaser & @trailruntom
Levene’s disability has not stood in the way of his aspirations. Ten years after he was paralyzed, he became a renowned international wheelchair athlete, a personal trainer, and a mentoring figure to others in the community.
“I’ve worked very hard for a number of years to try and maintain all of my independence,” he says.
According to a BBC news report, what happened was that the self-propelled wheelchair that Levene uses to move was left behind on a flight. He asked airport staff if they can transport him in a motorized buggy, however, Luton airport didn’t have one.
Airport staff claim that they offered to move him in a rigid high-backed chair, which Levene declined because he felt it was degrading, and that it restricted his movement.
“And to be in one of the chairs they were offering would make me feel humiliated and degraded,” he says.
He claimed they insisted on strapping him in it, not allowing him the freedom to adjust it himself.
When he arrived at the end of the terminal, he hauled himself onto a baggage trolley and used his hands to push himself to taxi.
Levene is now suing Luton Airport for not taking the right measures to ensure he and others with disabilities are accommodated.
When Levene spoke to BBC he explained that he felt “humiliated.” He adds that: “I was angry that none of the staff seemed to understand the position or seemed to have any empathy for what was happening.”
Levene believes that there must be accommodation for those with special needs, and that independence for disabled travellers is important.
“There should be appropriate equipment in every single airport,” he said.
“If something does happen, no-one should be put in the position that they are forced to crawl through the airport or drag themselves along the floor.”
“And there should be some form of equipment to move themselves independently. Someone whose chair is their legs shouldn’t be forced to be reliant on others for help.”
Unlike Luton, most airports around the UK and around the world provide self-propelling wheelchairs for those with disabilities. For example, the Glasgow Prestwick website says wheelchairs are available free of cost for disabled passengers to move around the terminal. This is a what really got to Levene.
“Every single airport I’ve been to, no matter where it is, no matter how small the airport may have been, there has always been some form of equipment, whether it has been a self-propelled wheelchair or a buggy,” he says.
The airport responded with a statement saying:
“On discovering that Mr Levene’s flight had arrived without his wheelchair, our teams worked hard to find a solution, offering Mr Levene an assisted wheelchair as a temporary replacement.
“Mr. Levene declined all offers of help as he deemed them unacceptable.”
“While we apologize if Mr Levene was dissatisfied with the service he received, we are satisfied that our agents and staff did all they could in difficult circumstances.”