Airport Forces Two Disabled People To Choose Who Gets One Wheelchair

A call to action for a family member

Kayla Vokolek
3 min readNov 11, 2022
Photo by Carlos Coronado on Unsplash

I have a cousin with Niemann-Pick disease, a rare condition that “can affect the brain, nerves, liver, spleen, bone marrow and, in severe cases, lungs,” mainly in children.

We’ve never really talked — there are a lot of cousins in the family tree of my great-grandma who had 12 children—but I’ve heard about Johnathan’s fundraisers and perseverance.

Social media fills in some blanks. That’s how I learned that upon returning home last Friday from his 199th spinal infusion at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Johnathan and his mother were informed there was only one wheelchair, despite he and another passenger both having requested one beforehand. Such information was marked on their boarding passes.

The other person in need of a wheelchair was an elderly woman on oxygen; as much as Johnathan needed one too, the woman was the clear choice. Still, disability accommodation clearly shouldn’t be based on selflessness and weighing who will suffer less when not given appropriate accommodation.

His mother Rebecca messaged me, “I honestly thought [the flight attendant] was joking when she told us we had to choose.”