Should the obese be treated as disabled by airlines?
New York Times News Service filed this interesting piece about what he terms the war of the armrests -- the plight of very overweight airline passengers. For this blog the operative question raised by the piece is: Should obese people be accomodated as having a disability?
The technical answers appears to be no. The ADA doesn't apply, airlines point out, the Air Carrier Access Act is their law. And the act doesn't require, for example, providing two seats to a passenger who can't fit into one.
The other side argues obesity should be accomodated just like other disabilities. "'It's not a lifestyle choice or a social choice,' said Joseph Nadglowski Jr., president of the Obesity Action Coalition, a Florida-based lobbying group. Nadglowski added that airlines 'make accommodations for others with other health conditions,' so why not the same for the obese?"
That the law doesn't apply currently is a non issue for me. The real question is should it? Obesity seems to me to be a disability as defined by the ADA. (Personally I'd say a good starting point would be having the ADA apply to airlines.) The airlines choose the size of their seats to maximize profit, which of course is understandable. For the airlines to argue that they shouldn't have to provide a larger seat to a larger customer that can't fit in one seat doesn't seem that different than a shop owner arguing that they shouldn't have to build a ramp because stairs are cheaper and therefore better for their business. The law doesn't tolerate that second scenario any more.
But enough of my opinion. My question for you is should very overweight airline passengers be accomodated as having a disability? Comment!