By JERRY WOLFFE
A hearing on a discrimination lawsuit against the Wayne County Airport Authority, the operators of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, will be heard Friday (10.17) in the U.S. District Courtroom of Judge David M. Lawson.
The suit was filed Sept. 18 by attorney Jason Turkish of Nyman Turkish PC of Southfield on behalf of Michael Harris of Westland, who uses a wheelchair, and Carla Hudson of East Lansing, who is blind.
It was discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act for the airport to no longer allow public transportation services to pick up and drop off passengers at the McNamara Terminal, the suit said.
The new access location is hundreds of feet from the former location and presents a hardship for those with disabilities, Turkish said. “Delta (the major airline at the airport) should be concerned for the safety of the passengers,” he said.
The airport’s new policy eliminates the previous practice of dropping off those with disabilities within 100 feet of the terminal, built in 2002. Under the new policy, those with disabilities have to cross a bridge, go up an escalator and travel some 300 yards to arrive at the Michigan Flyer-AirRide boarding and drop-off site.
Harris, who is the executive director of the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America in Novi, said: “There’s no way I could sit out in the cold.” He cannot feel his legs and in cold weather he is at risk of incurring frostbite without being aware of it.
“Don’t take something that works and move us to a location that doesn’t,” he said.
Airport officials said the location was changed because the previous drop-off area was too congested. The Wayne County Airport Authority which oversees the airport endorsed the move on Sept. 22.
Metro Airport spokesman Michael Conway said the airport has photos of the shuttle dropping off passengers into two or three lanes of traffic. “Our motivation in doing this is safety,” he added.
Gov. Rick Snyder in June wrote a letter of Metro Airport CEO Thomas Naughton saying that “maintaining the integrity of the current stop locations which provide convenient, direct access and ideal customer service is important to keep the service attractive and convenient for travelers.”
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.