Disability advocates oppose Detroit Metro Airport's drop-off/pick-up policy

Leading voices in Michigan for the rights of persons with disabilities have joined together to oppose Detroit Metropolitan Airport´s plan to create separate bus drop-off and pick-up points at the McNamara Terminal for passengers with disabilities.

Warriors On Wheels of Metropolitan Detroit, a group that was incorrectly identified by Detroit Metro as supportive of its discriminatory plan, has joined the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, and Michael Harris, an important representative of the Paralyzed Veterans of American Michigan Chapter, in opposition to the plan.

Harris said having separate facilities for persons with disabilities at the terminal will call unwanted attention to passengers with disabilities and relegate them to second-class status.

Under the airport´s plan, able-bodied passengers using public buses will be dropped off first at the far end of a nearly mile-long parking structure across the street from the terminal. Buses will then exit the airport and enter again to drop off passengers with physical limitations at the terminal. For pick-ups, passengers with disabilities will have to make their way across the street to the parking garage.

“The solution is easy — drop off all passengers directly at the terminal, which is how it was done for years,” said Jason Turkish, managing partner of Nyman Turkish, whose firm is representing the plaintiffs. “The law simply does not allow for persons with disabilities to be subjected to separate accommodations in order to gain access to a publicly funded airport. An integrated stop will suffice, but put it closer to check-in so those with disabilities have an easier time.”

Turkish said the airport´s failure to address the inaccessible facilities for persons with disabilities also “passes the buck” to transportation providers, who will have to ask passengers whether or not they have a disability, circle the airport multiple times to use the additional stop causing delay for all travelers, and load and unload luggage multiple times at each stop as opposed to servicing a single integrated location. All while further stigmatizing those with disabilities who are simply trying to get to their flights.

Harris said others in the disabled community are upset about the airport´s plan and are considering other travel options and means of protest. Harris attempted to share his views last week at a public Wayne County Airport Authority meeting but was allowed only five minutes to speak by board Chair Sue Hall, who granted the airport´s general counsel Brian Sadek unlimited time. Harris was told to return next month if he wants to finish his comments.