In an emotional video posted on her Instagram page, Maayan Ziv said she felt as if “disabled passengers aren’t seen.”
She continued: “We’re treated like luggage, like cattle, and this can’t continue anymore.”
Ms Ziv travelled from Toronto to Tel Aviv on 7 September. She claimed to have been well-prepared, arriving at the airport with four hours to spare before her flight.
This gave her time to bubble wrap her wheelchair to protect it from damage.
But when the accessibility advocate arrived in Tel Aviv, Ms Ziv found that her wheelchair had been badly damaged in transit.
“I’ve never seen my wheelchair in such bad shape, the damage was just so appalling,” she told CityNews.
“Honestly, it felt really violent to see my wheelchair like that. Something that is so important to me, being so mistreated and so disregarded, like it just didn’t matter.”
She had been looking forward to the comfort of her own chair, following a 10-hour flight. Instead, her chair arrived broken and she was forced to use a wheelchair from the airport, which was too big to properly support her body.
Writing on Instagram, the Canadian said: “I got off the plane to find my independence stripped from me.
“This cannot continue happening to disabled people. This wheelchair is my mobility. My entire life is powered by this wheelchair.
“Another flight, another broken wheelchair damaged by airlines.”
Other users were quick to comment under her series of posts. One said: “I’m so sorry to see / hear this. What can I do to help? Amplifying immediately. This is not OK.”
While another wrote: “I have to tell you that as a person who is naive to many struggles people with disabilities face, watching you in this video is indelible, has enlightened me, angered me and fuelled me. You’ve won a new soldier in your fight. Thank you.”
Ms Ziv was travelling to Tel Aviv to participate in a conference focused on accessibility in travel and tourism.
“I came here excited to learn and network with people focused on accessibility in travel and tourism. It’s just so ironic that now I’m basically a case study for all of the barriers that still exist,” she told CityNews.
Air Canada has offered to cover the cost of the damage - the wheelchair is valued at $30,000 - although it will take time to repair or replace it.
“It could take anywhere from six months to a year down to actually sitting in my wheelchair and feeling good again,” said Ms Ziv.
A spokesperson told The Independent: “Each year Air Canada successfully carries tens of thousands of customers who use mobility aids, and we fully appreciate the importance of these devices to their owners and have processes to ensure such journeys are smooth.”
The continued: “Regrettably, in this case we did not meet our normal service levels. We did respond to this customer’s concerns immediately at the airport, including arranging for a specialised wheelchair service to fix the damage.”
The Canadian federal government has also released a statement on the incident, saying that the experience that Ms Ziv endured is completely unacceptable.
They statement claimed that the government has been in touch with Air Canada and that they will continue to follow the situation closely.
Ms Ziv said there needs to be more transparency in Canada about how often damage is being done to mobility devices on flights.