Amberley Snyder is the only professional barrel rider who is paralyzed from the waist down — and she’s used to overcoming adversity. The 28-year-old has been riding horses since the age of 3, but in 2010, a major automobile accident left her with a distressing prognosis: She would never regain use or feeling below her waist. Undeterred, Snyder quite literally got back on the horse and returned to riding just four months after the accident.
Her story and powerful spirit has even inspired an upcoming Netflix film. So when she was informed by a United Airlines gate agent in Dwight D. Eisenhower airport in Wichita, Kan., that she could not take her wheelchair onto the jet bridge and that she would have to be led by someone, she became uncomfortable.
Snyder told Fox 13 that the gate agent said her taking herself down the jet bridge was a “liability.”
The agent insisted that Snyder would have to be turned around and led down the jet bridge, or transferred to an airline wheelchair. “I said, ‘I don’t want that, I’m not comfortable with that. I can take myself to the door of the plane… It’s not a good feeling when you get turned around; I just don’t like it, I’m not comfortable with it.’ Then he said, ‘Well you can’t get on the plane.'”
Snyder is no novice when it comes to traveling. On top of her rodeo career, she’s a public speaker and advocate for people with disabilities. Just last year, she estimated she traveled 150 to 200 times. “I fly probably three times a week,” she says.
“I have been in my chair 9 years and have flown hundreds of times!” Snyder shared on Facebook. “This was the first time I have been treated this way! I refuse to be treated as a handicapped just due to my inability to walk. I am a strong, independent person and can handle my own chair!”
But rather than missing her flight, Snyder eventually agreed to transfer to an airport-approved wheelchair and was led through the jet bridge onto the plane. “I love help,” she explained to the outlet. “I accept help; I really try to advocate for that. I understand safety — I understand that concept. [But] it’s kind of insulting that you can’t handle yourself down to the door of the plane.”
After writing a complaint, Snyder received the following statement from United: “United proudly welcomes all customers and flies thousands of people with disabilities every day. We are concerned to learn about our customer’s experience and have reached out to her. We are also working with our team in Wichita to better understand what happened.”
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