Vanderhorsts receiving national attention
Family was not allowed to board plane Sunday
The alleged discrimination of the Robert Vanderhorst family by American Airlines and United Airlines has received national and soon to be international attention. Outlets like CBS News, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Inside Edition have interviewed the family and the attention is just beginning.
Robert Vanderhorst, the father of Bede a 16 year old with Down Syndrome, alleges that his family was not allowed to fly on an American Airlines flight Sunday from Newark, N.J., to Los Angeles due to his son’s appearance. The family was later booked on a United Airlines flight where Vanderhorst claims that they were relegated to the back of the plane, in coach, in a segregated zone. Though he doesn’t have an exact count he estimates that he has fielded almost 40-plus calls in the past few days.
“I’m pleased that we have so much attention on the issue of how the airline treats people with disabilities than passengers without,” said Robert Vanderhorst.
The attention is reaching international outlets. A radio station in Toronto, Canada and a radio station in Australia are interested in talking with the family.
Locally, the family has interviewed with many woutlets including The Fresno Bee and the FOX, ABC and NBC affiliates in Fresno. For the latter the family held a press conference out on their front lawn.
“He [Bede] was a bit shy,” stated Robert Vanderhorst who added that eventually Bede walked up to the cameras.
His goal is simple.
“I hope in the long run to change how airlines accommodate disabled people,” explained Robert Vanderhorst. To that end he would like a few things to happen. First, the family would like to establish contact with American Airlines and United Airlines and explain to the them their personal side of the story. Next, they would ask that the airlines change their policy in the way that pilots and staff decide on who gets to board and finally they would ask that each passenger be assessed individually. In taking his family’s story public he has received information about the Air Carrier Access Act.
According to Robert Vanderhorst he has learned from other people that there should have been a mediator at the airport to help resolve disputes between the customer and the company.
“This wasn’t offered or mentioned,” added Robert Vanderhorst.