Imagine being stuck in an airport or airplane, physically unable to move yourself because someone broke your wheelchair.
According to disability advocates, it's not an uncommon scenario for people in wheelchairs, and many avoid air travel because of it. 

But not Hailey Schmidt of Hillsboro. Two years ago, the fourteen year old was on her way to a Disney Cruise with her family. They flew to Texas before realizing how unprepared, they say, their airline was to deal with Hailey's wheelchair

"There was a lot of fiber glass that was broken, lot of sharp edges," said Russ Schmidt, Hailey's father, describing the damage done to his daughter's $40,000 customized wheelchair.

He says not only was it broken, but United Airlines staff seemed to lack basic training to accommodate passengers with disabilities.

"They didn't know how to work the wheelchair. i had to physically walk that thing down the tarmac in restricted airspace," said Schmidt.

United eventually paid to fix the wheelchair. Hailey had to use an older stroller to get around in the meantime.
It was a nightmare travel experience that disability advocates say happens frequently.
In 2016, the department of transportation fined united airlines $2.75 million dollars for, in part, failing to provide adequate assistance to passengers with disabilities.

"That disability community is getting their back turned on them," said Schmidt.

But recently, the fight to make airlines wheelchair friendly and educated just gained a powerful ally.
Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs while serving in the Iraq war, recently got a law passed that will require air carriers to provide monthly, public reports about the number of checked bags, wheelchairs and motorized scooters they lost, broke or mishandled.

"I don't want her to have to go through that again," said Schmidt.

Schmidt says if he had had information showing how often his airline had lost or damaged wheelchairs, he would've made a different choice.

"When you're aware of this very very bad situation, and you turn your back to it...That says a lot about the character of your company," said Schmidt.

The Schmidt's have filed a $10 million dollar federal lawsuit against united that is currently pending in federal court.
Hailey is supposed to fly to florida in February as part of her school's dance team. Her parents say they're already having difficulty making arrangements for her wheelchair.
Airlines are already keeping track of how many wheelchairs they lose, break or mishandle.
But that information will be available to the public through the department of transportation as early as January.