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13 year old Bella challenges Richard Branson to make airline inclusive

I love to travel and I am lucky enough to be able to travel often. To me, the journey is as much fun as the destination and long haul flights are the best; I research all the movies I am going to watch, bring my own snacks, headphones, neck rest and I am set.

But it’s not like that for everyone.

Aeroplanes are the only major form of transport which does not allow people to travel in their own wheelchair. Until recently, I didn’t know that in order for a wheelchair user to fly, they often have to be lifted from their wheelchair into a standard seat by airport staff and harnessed in place. The whole process of transferring the passenger into a standard seat comes with significant risk. There is the risk of the passenger sustaining an injury in the transfer, a risk of developing pressure sores from sitting in a seat not designed for their needs, as well as a risk of the airport staff sustaining an injury trying to manoeuvre the passenger into the seat. In this world so adverse to risk, the whole process just seems very retro.

My Uncle Denzil uses a wheelchair. He wants to travel to South Africa to see his ageing father but he is fearful of the journey. He is afraid of risking injury to himself by not being able to travel in his wheelchair and he is additionally concerned that his vital and expensive piece of equipment will be damaged or lost.

Booking a holiday should be fun, not stressful. I have set up a petition to highlight this serious issue. I’m asking the major airlines if they would consider equipping them with spaces which allow modified wheelchairs to be safely locked into place when they upgrade their planes. If the airlines do not want to lose the sale of a seat in case it isn’t needed, they could design a seat, which can be removed to allow wheelchairs to be locked in when needed.

Sign the petition here.

It has been difficult getting my message out there and I honestly don’t understand why. I have reached out to people who I know have become outraged when they feel someone’s rights have been violated and become instantly vocal to enact change – and I admire them for their passion. But somehow they lack that same passion to fight for the rights of disabled people; but if we fight for equal rights, we need to fight for equal rights for everyone, otherwise we lack integrity. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a world where everyone is included. I want to see everyone have the same access to all the amazing things this world has to offer and I believe that any form of discrimination or inequality is bad for your soul.

Sir Richard Branson, if anyone has the passion and power to make change, it is you. Please enact change to make life fair and equitable for everyone and become the world’s first “Inclusive” airline.

I am not an engineer, nor am I the head of a billion dollar corporation: I don’t have the answers on how things can be done, or why they haven’t been done. I am a 13-year-old girl who will fight for social change.

I hope everyone reading this can support me by signing my petition because unless I have the numbers behind me, no one will feel the pressure to respond. All I ask is for the major airlines to please consider becoming the world’s first “Inclusive”, airline so that everyone can enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Thank you.

Check out my other project, Kidzcationz:

When I was 11 years old, I was frustrated by how holiday venues are now so good at supporting adults but in many cases, kids are still invisible. I was too young to put a review on Tripadvisor and rather than make up a fake date of birth, I designed my website to provide a platform for kids to rate hotels restaurants and attractions on how well they support the needs of kids.

It is so hard for Uncle Denzil to find suitable venues when they travel and in fact, it gets so hard that often it is easier if he simply stays at home. It made me think; if I think kids are often invisible, disabled people are even more so. With that in mind, I expanded the design of Kidzcationz to allow people to also rate venues on how accessible they are for disabled people. Currently, Kidzcationz has 600,000 venues which cover Australia, New Zealand and part of the USA; we are hoping to expand it to be a worldwide site.

Sign the petition here.

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