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Violinist Itzhak Perlman stranded by disability assistant at Toronto airport

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The world-renowned violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman was abandoned by a disability assistant at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Monday, March 31. It is not clear if the assistant worked for the airline or for the airport.

Perlman, who must use a mobility scooter or crutches due to a childhood bout with polio, was supposed to receive assistance with his carry-on luggage as he made his way through the airport. However, the employee refused to accompany Perlman for the entire trip.

“He walked me to an elevator and said ‘that’s where I’m leaving you,’” Perlman told the National Post on Monday.

The violinist, who was on his scooter, pointed towards his large load of luggage and asked how he would get it through customs by himself. The employee then said something to the effect of, “’Look, I’m not your personal assistant, you’re not paying me for this, you’re the one who chose to carry an extra bag with you.”

Perlman ended up piling all of his belongings on his lap: two small bags, a larger bag, his crutches and his violin, and his irreplaceable 18th century Italian violin. He then carefully made his way down a second elevator. Perlman did eventually get help from a policeman, who accompanied the violinist to the exit gate.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told in an e-mail that the company would investigate the "very concerning" incident and would be apologizing to Perlman. Fitzpatrick also said that the experience “is not at all representative of Air Canada’s policies to take care of customers with disabilities.”


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