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Charges Being Dropped Against Blind Lawyer Arrested On Airliner

May 5, 1988

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ A blind lawyer who was arrested for refusing to change seats on an airplane at National Airport outside Washington said Thursday the charges against her are being dropped.

The Virginia state president of the National Federation of the Blind hailed the action as a victory, but said the case demonstrates the need for better enforcement of a law prohibiting airlines from discriminating against the disabled.

Peggy Pinder, 35, practices law in Grinnell, Iowa, but was visiting Washington on Republican Party business when the incident occurred March 31 on a Midway Airlines jet. She was charged in Arlington County with criminal trespassing when she refused to change seats on a flight that was designated ″open seating.″

Pinder said that she had found a seat she liked on the plane and saw no reason to move. She didn’t leave until police came and took her away.

″My attorney told me the charges were being dropped,″ Ms. Pinder said in a telephone interview from Iowa.

″Our policy states that disabled passengers are to be placed near the floor-level emergency exit,″ said Sandra Allen, director of corporate communications for the Chicago-based Midway Airlines.

″Our position is that this isn’t the end of it,″ said Charles Brown, Virginia president of the blind federation.

″The issue is institutionalized prejudice,″ he said. ″The airlines get away with it.″

Ms. Pinder said the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 was intended to solve the seating problem, but because it did not, the blind have sought stronger legislation. A bill pending in Congress would bar air carriers from using visual acuity or a passenger’s use of a white cane or guide dog as the basis of seating.

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