World’s tallest woman takes her first plane flight with the help of accessibility mods

(CNN) — Rumeysa Gelgi, the tallest woman in the world, recently boarded a plane from her home country of Turkey to San Francisco.

However, this was not just any theft. It was Gelgi’s first, and one that highlighted a growing attention to accessibility.
Gelgi, 25, is 7 feet and 0.7 inches tall. Its proportions are the result of Weaver syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes bone overgrowth. She has been a Guinness World Record celebrity since her teens and holds records in several height-related categories, including longest fingers by a living person and longest back by a living woman.

Gelgi travels regularly to share her story and uses her warm spirit to spread body positivity on social media. However, despite her international profile, she had never flown in an airplane before. Like many people with Weaver syndrome, Gelgi uses mobility aids to get around, and a long flight would require special accommodations for his extraordinary setting.

But in September, Gelgi finally took off. In an Instagram post a few weeks later, she shared photos from her Turkish Airlines trip, which was made possible after airlines removed several seats on the plane so Gelgi could rest comfortably on a couch. stretcher during the 13-hour trip from Istanbul to California. .

“A flawless journey from start to finish,” Gelgi said on Instagram, praising Turkish Airlines staff and medical staff for their work. Gelgi said that although it was his first airplane flight, “it certainly won’t be his last.”

In her photos, Gelgi appears to be getting the VIP treatment, conversing with smiling staff on board the plane and enjoying a first-class meal.

Gelgi, who is both a computer programmer and a public lawyer, says she spends her time in San Francisco working with Guinness World Records.

CNN has contacted Turkish Airlines and Guinness World Records for comment.

Make air travel more accessible to all

Gelgi’s recent trip highlights a growing awareness of airline accessibility for people with physical differences and disabilities. Historically, air travel has been inconvenient for these travelers at best and abusive and painful at worst.
CNN spoke with Linda Ristagno, deputy director of external affairs at the International Air Transport Association, which sets global standards for air travel. Ristagno, who recently received the Disability Access Professional Award from the Open Doors Organization for his work, described the kinds of global and structural efforts underway to improve accessibility for all travelers.

“We are committed to ensuring that all passengers can enjoy the freedom of air travel, and we expect high standards [among participating airlines and airports] be consistent so that the same level of support can be offered to everyone,” she said.

Ristagno says a recent meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency, produced a historic resolution that will better enable different parts of the industry to work together to improve the ‘accessibility.

“This resolution encourages governments to work with airlines and disabled people’s organizations, and all stakeholders, including travelers with disabilities, to find solutions,” she said.

One of the biggest priorities this resolution can help with is the principle of “design for all”, in which accessibility is built into the very structure of buildings and mechanisms, rather than treated as an add-on or change.

In addition, Ristagno says industry groups and state organizations are also trying to improve infrastructure and procedures for transporting mobility aids such as motorized wheelchairs – a particular problem when it comes to accessible travel.

“The root of the challenges airlines face in safely loading and storing mobility aids is that few have been designed with air travel in mind,” she explains. “It becomes even more difficult as mobility aids increase in size, complexity and weight. There is a risk of injury while carrying them and a risk of damaging the device.”

By looking at the issue from all angles, air transport groups like IATA, ICAO and participating parties can explore long-term solutions, including design improvements that enable easier navigation at airports and in airplanes, and even better-designed mobility aids.

“There is an inherent motivation to raise standards, as these passengers represent a growing share of air travel demand,” Ristagno said. “Also, disability is a medical term. But accessibility is a social term. We want to make sure we’re accessible to everyone.”