Jillian Mercado/Twitter

Woman documents how airport staff broke her wheelchair 

Others are now sharing their own stories with #disabledairlinehorror.


Sierra Juarez


Posted on Jul 20, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 8:20 am CDT

Model and activist Jillian Mercado posted a video, which shows John F. Kennedy International Airport workers breaking her wheelchair after ignoring her directions on how to handle it.

“[Even] when I specifically advised that my chair does not fold… they folded it anyways causing the chair to completely snap and break,” Mercado tweeted on July 18. “I am completely and utterly over the disrespect and unprofessionalism of airports handling assistive devices. THIS IS OUR WAY OF LIVING!”

She then encouraged others to share their own stories about how air travel is inaccessible for disabled people with the hashtag #disabledairlinehorror.

Mercado wrote that she’s been through four-to-six similar incidents while traveling–all in the span of two years.

She added that bad experiences like hers can deter people from traveling. Several Twitter users echoed the sentiment, saying they opt to drive or to skip traveling altogether because of the risks.

From broken wheelchairs to outright discrimination, Twitter users are now sharing stories about some of the obstacles they have faced while traveling.

Thousands of people shared Mercado’s tweet thread. Kennedy airport responded by apologizing for the incident.

“[We] are sorry that you had to be put through this at our airport,” the airport tweeted. “We hope that your chair was functional when you arrived at your next destination.”

Airlines lose or damage about 26 wheelchairs a day, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition, 65% of disabled travelers reported having “major obstacles” at the airport, according to a 2015 study from Open Doors Organization, a nonprofit that advises businesses on accessibility.

Mercado wrote that she is using her platform to prompt change at airports.


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*First Published: Jul 20, 2019, 3:04 pm CDT