A TikTok star called out Delta for breaking her wheelchair on a flight, a systemic issue airlines keep ignoring

Two screenshots from Bri Scalesse's TikTok videos next to a photo of her in her wheelchair
A composite image showing Bri Scalesse in a TikTok video (left) next to a full-body shot (right) of her with the wheelchair which was later broken in transit.

  • A model and disability advocate called out Delta for breaking her wheelchair in transit.
  • Bri Scalesse said the chair was irreparably damaged en route from St Paul to Newark on July 4.
  • Airlines damage thousands of wheelchairs a year, a problem companies have been slow to address.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A TikTok star and disability advocate called out Delta Air Lines in a viral post for breaking her wheelchair in transit and ruining her trip.

Bri Scalesse told Insider that the “dehumanizing” experiences highlights a recurring problem where airlines don’t take care with wheelchairs and end up causing problems for disabled passengers.

Scalesse, a model and disability advocate, handed her chair over to airport staff when she took flight 3737 from St Paul, Minnesota, to Newark, New Jersey, on July 4.

She said she had been in the Midwest for a wedding with her boyfriend. But after the flight home, she realized that her chair had been irreparably damaged.

In a TikTok video filmed shortly after the flight, Scalesse told her 478,000 followers that “Today my freedom and independence was taken away, and I don’t know how I’m going to live my life”.


@delta today I’m losing my independence only 6 weeks after my best friend lost hers. How. How. How.

♬ original sound – briscalesse

She told Insider that her boyfriend first noticed the damage to the chair, when one of its caster wheels (a small front wheel that helps the chair maneuver) no longer touched the ground.

The frame had buckled, leaving the break pushing on the wheel. The balance was off as well, leaving Scalesse tilting to one side as she sat in the chair. The damage had left the chair essentially unusable.

“I just immediately went into shock,” Scalesse told Insider.

She said that Delta staff referred her to baggage services, which she described as “dehumanizing” given how vital the chair is to her.

“This happens because our wheelchairs are really treated like luggage, not as an extension of our bodies,” she said.

“And I think that’s where kind of the beginning of the problem starts is that they’re not seen as a part of us, our wheelchairs, and our medical devices aren’t seen as a part of us.”

In a statement to Insider, Delta said that its staff “consider a wheelchair as an extension of a person,” and said that it was talking to Scalesse about what happened.

Scalesse said that problems like this are common for disabled people. In her TikTok she said: “I want to, my community want to, experience the world, we want to travel, and we don’t want to be afraid that at the end of a flight our freedom won’t be there”.

One of Scalesse’s friends had the same thing happen to her. Gigi deFiebre’s chair was broken – also by Delta – on a May trip from New York to Phoenix, which Scalesse also highlighted in a viral TikTok post that was viewed 17 million times.


@delta today I’m losing my independence only 6 weeks after my best friend lost hers. How. How. How.

♬ original sound – briscalesse

Scalesse told Insider that deFiebre is still waiting on the repairs to her chair seven weeks later because of errors by the repair company.

Scalesse told Insider: “I do believe that it’s not an individual problem, or an individual person problem, or even an individual airline problem. I think it’s a deeper systemic issue. 26 wheelchairs are damaged a day by airlines in America.”

A photo of Bri Scalesse and Gigi DeFiebre smiling at the camera
Bri Scalesse and Gigi DeFiebre are working to highlight the realities of travelling in a wheelchair

“It just blows my mind that this can keep happening with no changes being made… whether that’s a specific area for medical devices under the plane, or, what I think most people would love is to have our chairs on the planes with us, even if that’s not us in them, to have them strapped somewhere on the plane.”

US Department of Transportation figures show that thousands of wheelchairs and scooters per year are damaged on flights, with 10,548 damaged in 2019, as Insider’s Talia Lakritz reported.

In a statement to Insider regarding the breaking of Bri Scalesse’s wheelchair, Delta said: “We consider a wheelchair as an extension of a person and understand that any mishandling of this mobility device directly impacts their daily living. We are affirmatively working with the customer to understand what occurred.

“We are proactively working with our Advisory Board on Disability and our cross divisional operations teams to continuously improve the travel experience for our customers with disabilities.”

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3 ways managers can support employees living with chronic pain and fatigue

lower back pain sitting office work from home
Managers should focus on ways to make workers with chronic pain more comfortable in the office – or let them work from home.

  • Around one in five adults in the US lives with chronic pain.
  • To better support employees living with chronic pain, meet them with compassion.
  • Accommodations like a standing desk or WFH schedule can improve their experience.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Around one in five adults in the United States lives with chronic pain, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet talking about and receiving accommodations for chronic pain and fatigue is still widely considered taboo in the workplace.

I live with the autoimmune disease vasculitis, which is characterized by chronic fatigue and pain. This means when I go to work, either virtually or in person, my symptoms follow me to my job.

Managers can do a lot to improve the experiences of employees like me by taking just a few simple steps – here’s how.

Be approachable and offer accommodations

Supervisors shouldn’t push employees to talk about their chronic pain or fatigue if they don’t want to, but rather make themselves more available should an employee want to open up.

“I think by asking open-ended questions about their chronic pain, managers can signal to their workers that they are open to discussing accommodations,” Rachelle Scott, director of psychiatry at Eden Health, told Insider. “Meeting employees with compassion is really important here. Many of us show up to work with so much that we don’t share with others.”

Scott recommended asking employees if they need to take breaks and encourage them to do so. Supervisors can also ask what types of accommodations would help them avoid triggers for their chronic pain and fatigue.

Other small steps, such as offering options for different types of desks, chairs, or other office equipment, can go a long way.

Vanessa Ford, cofounder of MenoLabs, a company that sells probiotic supplements, told Insider she wasn’t comfortable discussing how her scoliosis and insomnia affected her during the workday when she was younger, but this changed when she moved up the corporate structure.

“I purchased a standing desk and ergonomic chairs so that I could better address my health needs, and I understand that my employees need those same kinds of considerations as well, having suffered from it myself,” she said.

Trust employees to work where they’re most comfortable

Some employees dealing with chronic pain or fatigue may produce better work from home, as having their own space allows them to better manage their symptoms than if they worked in an office.

Make sure remote work isn’t just acceptable but encouraged for members of your team. If you’re hiring, also consider making remote work the default option on job descriptions.

“Throughout the pandemic, remote work has empowered me and others with disabilities,” Jennifer Sanchez, a social-media manager for the Cook County government in Illinois who lives with vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, told Insider. “We were able to work safely, efficiently, and productively while also taking care of our health needs.”

Recognize that not all chronic illnesses are visible

People with invisible disabilities, such as fibromyalgia, may face an additional barrier of dealing with managers who question just how debilitating their illness could be.

Managers shouldn’t question the medical needs of a worker if they’re still able to perform their job. One tip is to focus on output or impact rather than hours worked.

Sara Youngblood Gregory, who lives with arthritis, chronic pain, and injuries from a car accident, told Insider she faced barriers when she needed to go to physical therapy while working as a union organizer.

“I felt my boss gave me an extremely hard time about going to physical therapy, despite the medical necessity and doctor’s note I had,” she said. “My boss was disabled herself. I’m really grateful I could turn to my staff union for support and guidance.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Cost of Inequity: How and why inequity persists in the institutions that govern daily life in America

A receipt with the words "The Cost of Inequity" written on it on on a blue background.

Inequity, not to be confused with inequality, is the result of injustice and cultural exclusion. Cost of Inequity explores how and why inequity persists in the institutions that govern daily life in America while illustrating the real economic cost to society.

From education to the workplace, banks, healthcare and more, this series examines the historical causes, current policies and societal norms that perpetuate unfair, avoidable differences for marginalized groups.

Insider also conducted a survey of over 1100 American workers to examine the challenges businesses face in fulfilling DEI programs. Detailed results of the survey will be published in the coming weeks.

Read the original article on Business Insider