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July 22, 2004

'Humiliated' Deaf Teenagers Removed from Spain Flight

From: Scotland on Sunday, UK - Jul 22, 2004

By Alan Jones, Industrial Correspondent, PA News

A group of deaf teenagers going on holiday to Spain were told to leave their aircraft at the last minute today because they did not have an adult with them.

Parents and disability rights campaigners attacked Iberian Airways for "humiliating" and upsetting the 23 youngsters.

They were pupils of Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf at Newbury, Berks and were due to go on holiday to the Canary Islands, via Madrid, to celebrate the end of their A Levels.

The break was organised several months ago and parents said the airline was told they would be travelling by themselves.

"They checked in and boarded the plane at Heathrow after asking if they could sit together. Their baggage was loaded on but then someone decided to throw them off.

"They were taken back to the terminal, their baggage was taken off the plane because apparently the airline wanted them to have a hearing person with them," said one of the parents, who did not want to be named.

"I am absolutely disgusted. These young people have the courage to travel despite their disability but they have been embarrassed.

"A lot of them were crying and they have been made a spectacle just because of their disability."

Parents have been trying to contact the airline to protest at the treatment of the deaf youngsters, who were told they would have to stay in a hotel tonight while the situation was resolved.

A spokesman for the Disability Rights Commission said the incident highlighted the need for the airline industry to be brought under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The youngsters are all aged 18 and 19.