When Is An Allergy A Disability?

On August 13, 2012, in Richmond, Vancouver, by Rosalie McLachlin

Airplane Cabins Raise Questions for Sensitive Passengers

Back in the Madmen days, airlines reserved a few rows at the front and rear of a plane as a “smoking section” for people to light up. Today, airlines are reserving rows of seats for an entirely different reason: as “buffer zones” for people with disabling allergies and sensitivities.

Are you allergic to peanuts, pets, or perfume?

According to a June 14, 2012 bulletin from the Canadian Transportation Agency, your allergy could be considered a disability.

In the bulletin, the CTA used a World Health Organization analysis of disability to determine whether persons with disabilities have “encountered an obstacle to their mobility.” If a disability is a debilitating allergy, and an obstacle to mobility is the presence of allergens on an airplane, the Canada Transportation Act requires the airline to accommodate the passenger with the allergy.

For example, if you’re deathly allergic to peanuts and you’re concerned about the presence of peanuts in an Air Canada cabin, you can advise airline personnel ahead of time and request that they create a buffer zone of approximately five rows. When other passengers are seated in that area, Air Canada will tell them that the section is peanut-free, and they will not be served snacks or meals that contain peanuts or peanut products.

Cats, perfume, and seafood steam

In an interesting turn of events, the same goes for cats aboard planes. In 2009, Air Canada started allowing passengers to bring cats into the cabin. However, the carrier quickly faced a barrage of cat allergy complaints. In response, the Canadian Transportation Agency had to devise similar five-row policy that included guidelines for boarding, deplaning, and washroom access.

On the other hand, the agency found that passengers who requested allowance for their allergies to perfume and seafood steam were not able to demonstrate that they were persons with disabilities.

The next time you fly, turn around in your seat and see who’s sitting in the peanut gallery. If you’re on an Air Canada, Jazz, or WestJet flight, it might just be you.

If you have an allergy and have been denied a disability claim, seek a second opinion. For a free lawyer referral, call toll-free: 1-855-THEY-PAY (1-855-843-9729).

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