Kenny Salvini sits in an airline aisle chair viewing the remains of his powered wheelchair.

Kenny Salvini sits in an airline aisle chair viewing the remains of his powered wheelchair.

Kenny Salvini, a United Spinal member from Sumner, Washington, had his specialized wheelchair heavily damaged by Alaska Airlines on a recent flight home to Sea-Tac International Airport.

This is the second time in a year that Salvini had the equipment that he depends on to live independently damaged during air travel. The damage was so severe that Salvini’s wheelchair is no longer functional and held together with zip ties awaiting repairs.

Last week, Salvini took to social media to voice his frustration. “No matter what happens, this is just the beginning of a larger conversation about accessible travel that must be had. This makes two trashed chairs from two different airlines in the span of exactly one year. Because I’m paralyzed from the neck down, these chairs are more than just my legs, they are also my arms and extensions of my brain; they are how I control my telephone, access my home and run my business. In short, they are my life, and that should not be put at risk every time I want to travel and #dolife,” said Salvini. The incident was reported in an article by

Kenny had attended United Spinal Association’s 6th Annual Roll on Capitol Hill legislative advocacy event in Washington, DC, and was on the flight home when the wheelchair damage occurred. Oddly enough, Kenny and the other event attendees had just spent several days advocating for disability rights, including the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (ACAA) which prohibits discrimination against air travelers with disabilities. Regardless, many individuals still encounter wheelchair damage, lack of accessible accommodations, and delays with service or assistance when flying.

Salvini recently decided to start a peer support group near his eastern Washington home when he realized how much there was to learn from others living with a spinal cord injury or disorder. He also actively blogs about living with disability, including his latest airport fiasco, in hopes that it will lead to a larger conversation about accessible air travel.

Things You Can Do

Accessible air travel guide for people with disabilitiesDownload a free copy of Accessible Air Travel Guide For People with Disabilities which provides people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids with all the information they need to have a safe and enjoyable flight.

Help Avoid Future Disasters Like Kenny Had
Email your Senators and tell them to pass the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act. It’s easy to do!

Serving the SCI/D community for over 70 years, United Spinal is familiar with stories like Salvinis’. Our policy team is hard at work advocating for the passage of the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, which would further protect the rights of airplane passengers with disabilities and close service gaps they encounter in air travel.