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Wheelchair provider at LAX targeted

June 29, 2007|Francisco Vara-Orta | Times Staff Writer

Two workers who provide wheelchair assistance to disabled travelers at Los Angeles International Airport filed a complaint Thursday with the U.S. Department of Transportation, alleging that their employer has failed to provide legally mandated training and properly maintain wheelchairs.

Backed by a group of eight disability and workers' rights organizations, the complaint alleges that Aero Port Services has failed to train some of its 350 wheelchair assistance employees, leading to eyewitness accounts of three customers being dropped from their wheelchairs in the last 12 months, among other problems.

But Stephan Park, director of Aero Port Services' legal department, rebutted the allegations, adding that he had not yet seen the complaint.

Park said the company has nurses provide training in how to help people in wheelchairs. He said the company has 75 new wheelchairs in its fleet of 100 and has ordered an additional 40 chairs.

For about four years, Inglewood-based Aero Port Services has had a contract to serve the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Park said the complaint may be an attempt to "put pressure" on the company to unionize.

"We are one of only two ground-handling companies that are not unionized," he said.

Carolina Briones of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a labor-backed community group, said Parks was mistaken.

Unionizing "is not what the complaint is about," Briones said. "This is about safety for the disabled and those handling them."

The employees' complaint states that Aero Port Services has violated parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, requiring that airlines and airports make accommodations to assist disabled passengers with traveling.

francisco.varaorta@latimes.com

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