Thursday, March 15, 2018

Edinburgh Airport to launch new App to facilitate easy assistance for passengers with disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

Edinburgh Airport has announced launch of an innovative 'Welcome App' to make the airport more welcoming to those living with disabilities. Created by Neatebox, the app is designed to allow passengers to personalize the assistance they require and request assistance from the airport in advance. 

The Edinburgh Airport passengers with Reduced Mobility team will then receive a notification letting them know that guests are on their way and will be sent extra tips on how best to aid the individual.

As per the Edinburgh Airport, the app is yet another provision they offer to ensure the airport is open and accessible to all, regardless of their needs. This Airport recently became the first airport in Scotland to be recognized as autism friendly. 

Speaking to Insider, Mr. Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airports Chief Executive, said, “It’s also good to work with local businesses and implement innovative approaches to passenger needs – we pride ourselves on being innovative and we are confident our accessibility will continue to improve with the introduction of Neatebox.” 

Research carried out by Euan’s Guide showed 92% of disabled people do not feel confident visiting new places due to concerns about accessibility. Neatebox want to help improve lives through the use of smart technology. They hope that the ‘Welcome’ app will help promote Scotland as the ‘epicenter of innovation’.

Gavin Neate, Co-Founder of Neatebox, responding to a question by EN4News about the inspiration behind the innovative app and why it is so important in a customer service environment, said, “When it comes to disability, we need to have so much more information now. Everyone likes to be interacted with differently. If you go up and you were instantly happy and friendly towards someone with autism, that might not actually be what they need. Therefore if we knew what somebody’s needs were before we met them, then that would be brilliant.  70% of people who are disabled have hidden disabilities. We generally think about providing service for people who have obvious disabilities – a blind person, a wheelchair user, someone with a walking cane. Things like autism, epilepsy and dyslexia – these are all disabilities a person has to self disclose. If you’re standing at a bank or if you’re in a hotel or a Starbucks queue, the last thing you want to do is talk to the person behind the counter and explain.” 

Neate added, “We don’t just want to help a disabled person get better service, we want to help the customer service person give better service.”

Read more  at EN4News 

Friday, March 9, 2018

CISF reiterates that Shifting from personal wheelchairs or removal of prothetic limbs not mandatory at Airports

Dear Colleagues,

Please refer to my earlier post titled "CISF amends guidelines to avoid humiliating security checks at Airports for people with disabilities" dated 14 October 2017 detailing the decision taken in a joint meeting of senior officials of CISF, BCAS, DGCA & stakeholders from different disability groups on 11 October 2017 which was also attended by the author.

However, complaints are still being received from different airports that the CISF officials are still unaware of this decision and insisting the users to shift from their personal wheelchairs to the airport wheelchairs to scan their personal wheelchairs. This has forced the CISF to issue the below clarification through this media report in Hindustan Times again. The circular is still not put in public domain by the BCAS though. The last circular cum PIB Press Release which is available in public domain dates back to the 28 March 2014 when "Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for Screening of Passengers with Special Needs and Medical Conditions" were issued. (These are also available on this blog at BCAS Security Rules.) 

Here is the news report from the Hindustan Times dated 09 March 2018

As per earlier security norms, disabled passengers were shifted to wheelchairs during pre-embarkation frisking at airports.

New Delhi | Mar 09, 2018 

The CISF on Friday said it has decided not to ask differently abled passengers to take off their prosthetic limbs for security checks at airports across the country, except in rare cases when profiling necessitates such action.

The move is a part of new security norms to avoid inconvenience to such persons, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officiating Director General Alok Kumar Pateria said at his annual press conference in New Delhi.

CISF Additional Director General M.A. Ganpathy (incharge of airport section) said: “We have now instructed our personnel to visually inspect passengers wearing prosthetic limbs and only ask them for further scrutiny if initial profiling shows something amiss.

As per earlier security norms, disabled passengers were shifted to wheelchairs during pre-embarkation frisking at airports.

He said that the decision was taken in a meeting attended by CISF and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) officers a few months ago.

“The idea was to review the existing BCAS provisions which without compromising on safety make them disabled-friendly.”

Another CISF officer said that a prosthetic which does not have any foam padding cover under which weapon/explosive can be concealed and in which a steel rod is clearly visible, may be visually screened and undergo explosive trace detector checks without removal.

Only in rare cases where there is sufficient justification based on profiling of the passenger may x-ray screening be resorted to, he said.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Staff of Stansted Airport, UK denies assistance because the passenger “didn’t look disabled”!

Dear Colleagues,

Here is a report from the Independent UK about the Stansted Airport in UK refusing to assist a disabled passenger and asking for a charge to help!

A disabled passenger has branded Stansted Airport staff “disgusting” after she was denied assistance because she “didn’t look disabled”.

Nathalie Allport-Grantham, 23, was flying to Nice with Ryanair on 31 December 2017 when a member of staff refused her the assistance she had confirmed ahead of her flight.

Nathalie Allport-Grantham uses wheelchair to manage long distances
(Photo: The Independent)
She had requested the use of a wheelchair to help her to the gate, as well as assistance carrying her hand luggage onboard the aircraft.
But while she was assigned a wheelchair at check-in, she says it was later taken away from her by airport staff who then told her that she was “wasting their time” by asking for help.

Allport-Grantham suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which causes chronic pain and joint dislocation, as well as Marfan syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome – a condition which affects the heart, and can cause dizziness and fainting when the patient is standing.

Although she uses a wheelchair part-time, all are invisible disabilities.

She had confirmed wheelchair assistance when buying her ticket on 5 November, opting not to bring her own chair because the airport would provide one instead. Airlines such as Ryanair log the assistance needs of their passengers, but it is the airports in question that fulfil the requests. Stansted contracts its PRM (passengers with reduced mobility) service to an external provider, Omniserv.

Allport-Grantham – who was travelling with her boyfriend – arrived at Stansted in good time for her 7.55am flight, with her boarding pass specifying that she was a special assistance passenger. She told The Independent that on arrival, staff gave her a wheelchair and asked her boyfriend to push her to the gate – common practice at Stansted for wheelchair passengers travelling with companions. 

Staff warned her that there were no lifts available, but assured her that a member of staff would help her up the stairs of the aircraft and carry her hand luggage for her.

The couple made it to a lounge area en route to the gate, where Allport-Grantham transferred from the wheelchair to a more comfortable seat. The wheelchair was quickly taken by an airport employee, who promised to bring it straight back. He never returned, however, and Allport-Grantham was forced to walk to the gate, over five minutes away, where she found two other special assistance passengers waiting to board.

She told The Independent: “I told the lady on duty that I had booked special assistance and needed help with my bags and to get onto the aircraft.

“She looked at me and said, ‘If you want someone to carry your bags, you have to pay £50.’

“I told her I had pre-booked disability assistance and I need help getting onto the aircraft. 

“She said, ‘I’m actually waiting for someone who cannot walk, if you want to get on the plane I suggest you queue up like everyone else. If you don’t want to carry your bag, it’s £50 to have it put in the hold.’

“The person she was waiting for was me, but she was expecting someone who looked more ‘disabled’ than I do. 

“Then she said loudly, in earshot of everyone at the gate: ‘I’ve got disabled people to help and you are wasting their time’. Everyone was staring. It was humiliating.”

When she said she was not allowed to lift anything for medical reasons – lifting can dislocate her joints, tear muscles or rupture internal organs – Allport-Grantham says the employee told her, “Maybe next time don’t bring a heavy bag then.”

After the encounter reduced her to tears, she says a male airport worker came over to ask what was going on, and the agent said, “This lady is wasting my time.”

The male employee checked Allport-Grantham’s name against the list on the screen and confirmed that she was the passenger they had been expecting. “He was really nice and found me a spare wheelchair, but the lady didn’t even apologise,” she said.

In the meantime, the flight was completing the boarding process, and the other two special assistance passengers were already on the plane. Allport-Grantham had sent her boyfriend – who is French, and was visiting family – on ahead as the wheelchair was being sourced.

Allport-Grantham – who carries a card for use on public transport, informing people of her disabilities – says that she was then wheeled outside to the plane but left in the rain for nearly 10 minutes until baggage handlers had finished loading the hold luggage. 

Calling herself “emotionally drained”, she told The Independent that she had contacted Stansted and Ryanair via Twitter. She had received no response from Ryanair, while Stansted had requested more information.

She said: “It isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I want to make a fuss because I believe big companies have a responsibility not only to follow the law but also to educate their staff.

“I was gobsmacked by her behaviour. It’s unbelievable that an employee would be so certain that I was faking it that she would speak to me like that.

“People have a sense of entitlement that they ‘know’ who is and isn’t disabled, and if you don’t fit into their idea of disability, it means you’re a liar. It is so sad that people think they know you by just looking at you.

“I would love to be able to carry my own bag, and I would love to be able to manage steps to the aircraft without help.”

A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “While we regret any inconvenience caused, wheelchair services at London Stansted are operated by Omniserv – at great expense to the airlines – and London Stansted is responsible for this service and any problems with it.”

Stansted Airport told The Independent: “Of course, we are very disappointed to hear about Ms Allport-Grantham’s experience and apologise for any distress caused.

“Special assistance is booked directly with the airline and handled by the airport’s PRM provider Omniserv. We are speaking to the provider to find out more about the circumstances of the incident.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Woman forced to CARRY her disabled sister off Jetstar flight after the airline failed to provide a wheelchair when they arrived

  • Danae Florias was forced to carry her disabled sister, Marissa, off a Jetstar flight, 100 meters to the terminal
  • It's believed Ms Florias was also forced to assemble a wheelchair by herself without help from Jetstar staff
  • Jetstar has confirmed it has apologised to its customer and an investigation has been launched 

13 Nov 2017,  Daily Mail Australia

Airline Jetstar has come under fire for not providing a wheelchair to help a woman take her disabled sister from the plane to the terminal.

Perth woman Danae Florias and her sister 26-year-old Marissa, who has cerebral palsy, had been on a holiday to Melbourne last month and were returning to Perth on Jetstar.

The woman was disgusted with the treatment her and her sister were shown by the airline, telling Nine News she was forced to carry her sister 100 metres to the terminal without a wheelchair.

It's believed the wheelchair was supposed to be there, but wasn't, and when she got to the terminal, she had to assemble a supplied wheelchair herself without any help from staff. 'Eventually my sister started crying, thinking they'd lost her wheelchair. She gets very anxious and upset easy so I couldn't calm her down,' said Ms Florias.

When Daily Mail contacted the airline, it said that other media had not told the whole story behind the incident. 'While our customer service officer had a wheelchair on hand to assist with the customer’s transfer from the aircraft to the terminal, we understand this did not meet her specific needs. He then offered to provide additional support,' said a spokesperson. 

In a statement the airline confirmed that it had advised Ms Florias that the investigation into the matter, and the ongoing chain of events, was ongoing. 'Every year Jetstar carries 60,000 passengers with specific needs,' said a Jetstar spokesperson.

'These reports are concerning and do not reflect the normal flight experience of our disabled passengers, many of whom fly with Jetstar often.'  'We apologize to the family for the distress involved and we're investigating how this occurred.'

This is the latest bungle in a series of incidents the airline has come under fire for of its treatment of customers with a disability. In 2009 the budget line upset three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley, who said he felt humiliated when the airline wouldn't allow him to use his own wheelchair. And more recently, renowned Australian musician Jim Conway was left frustrated by the airline, unable to board a flight to Melbourne earlier this year, because it did not have measures in place to transfer him safely into his seat. 

Ms Florias told Nine news that she would never fly Jetstar again.

Source: Daily Mail UK

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CISF amends guidelines to avoid humiliating security checks at Airports for people with disabilities

No X-ray screening for disabled at airports (Times of India) 

Jasjeev Gandhiok | TNN | Updated: Oct 14, 2017, 

NEW DELHI: People with disabilities won't have to face lengthy and "humiliating" security checks at airports anymore, with the Central Industrial Security Force issuing guidelines on how to scan passengers on wheelchairs and those wearing prosthetics. While earlier, PWDs were required to go through an X-ray screening, now checking with a hand-held explosive trace detector (ETD) device will suffice. Passengers will be asked to go through an X-ray screening only if there is "sufficient doubt".

In addition, they won't have to remove their prosthetic limbs for security check. The decision came after a meeting was held on Wednesday between officials of CISF, the airport sector, BCAS and the ministry of civil aviation and representatives of NGOs working for PWD rights.

Earlier, a committee had been constituted to review the security-check process based on BCAS provisions to make it more "friendly" for PWDs. Officials said standard operating procedures would soon be formulated, which will be used across all 59 airports under CISF.

"All issues were addressed at the meeting, following which it was decided to tweak the system of frisking of such passengers. Now, a visual inspection and an ETD hand-held device scanning will suffice while wheelchair-bound passengers will also get relief," said O P Singh, CISF DG.

CISF officials said the screening officer would also be required to make an entry into a register each time he subjected a PWD passenger to an X-ray screening, stating the reason for doing so. "We are looking at any technological aid that can further make this process easier. CISF personnel at all 59 airports will now be trained and sensitized according to the new procedures," Singh added.

Disability rights activists welcomed the move, saying it was long overdue. "It's humiliating to get off the wheelchair and remove prosthetics for scanning. More people will look forward to flying again," said Javed Abidi, director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.

Suvarna Raj, a wheelchair-bound para-athlete who has often faced inconvenience at airports, said the move would lead to greater accountability.

Source: Times of India 

Another related news in DNA India: 

CISF: Disabled no longer have to remove prosthetics for airport security  

Mumbai | 14 Oct 2017

In a major relief to the disabled, the CISF will no longer carry out the "humiliating" airport security drill of asking people with disabilities (PWDs) to remove their prosthetics or make them get up from their wheelchair for screening at the airports. The announcement was made by the CISF Director General OP Singh.

The DG said that the Central Industrial Security Force will now use explosive trace detectors (ETDs) and visual profiling to meet the security needs. The Force will also conduct a country-wide survey to find out how many such passengers travel by air each day.

"The aim is to ensure that such passengers do not face any humiliation or uneasiness when they travel through Indian airports. We have seen numerous complaints in this regard. What we have decided now is to use explosive trace detectors and the visual profiling method of the passenger and his prosthetic tool or wheelchair rather than asking them to take out everything," Singh said.

The current procedure is to ask passengers to take off their prosthetics before boarding a flight and ask to get up from those on a wheelchair.

"We are soon going to issue a fresh list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to usher the new regime in a uniform manner," the DG said.

"We will also conduct a survey at all the 59 airports that we guard to see how many such PWD passengers we receive on an average. That will give us a fair idea as to how to go about implementing the new SOPs."

A senior official in the CISF airport sector said they have estimated that about eight-10 such passengers use Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) every day, the busiest airport in the country.

"Passengers with prosthetics will be asked to remove them only under compelling circumstances which will be purely security concerns. The same procedure will be adopted for wheelchair-bound passengers and those with other disabilities," the official said.

The director general added that CISF was also looking at "simplifying the security procedures for passengers with orthopaedic issues."

In case of prosthetics with foam padding, he said, CISF personnel will use new SOPs but can seek its removal, keeping in mind security concerns.

Disability rights activist Javed Abidi, who attended a recent meeting with the CISF authorities on the subject, raised his concerns during a recent conversation.

"I have travelled across the globe for so many years now but only at an Indian airport do I have to get down from my wheelchair so that the security personnel on duty can put it inside a large X-Ray machine to check it against explosives and other hazardous material that can be a threat to the aircraft or aviation security," Abidi, the convener of the Disabled Rights Group, said.

It is very difficult and embarrassing, he said, for people who have prosthetic or artificial limbs to take out the entire part in full public view inside an airport.

The CISF is the central paramilitary force tasked with guarding 59 civil airports in the country.

Source: DNA India

Friday, October 13, 2017

CISF takes steps to make Screening at Airports more friendly to Flyers with Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

Here is the coverage from The Wire on our recent meeting with the DG CISF wherein issues of hassles faced by persons with disabilities at the time of screening at the Air ports were the focus of discussion and the DG, CISF agreed to examine ways by which this experience could be made more friendly.

Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security Allows for X-Ray Scanning for PwDs as Measure of Last Resort


The developments assume significance as in the past, several persons with disabilities have suffered humiliation at the hands of security or airlines staff at airports across India.

New Delhi: The long fight of disability rights activists for making air travel more friendly and sensitive towards the needs of persons with disability (PwD) appears to have finally borne some fruit.  The Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security (BCAS) has accepted the recommendations of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to use X-ray scanning for prosthetics and orthotics only as a measure of the last resort. Instructions have also been issued to make wheelchair users get up from their chairs only in exceptional cases for security checks.

The decision was made known at a meeting convened by director general of the CISF, O.P. Singh, on October 11, which had representatives of the BCAS, Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Air Passengers Association of India and representatives of the disability sector. The meeting, which lasted close to 90 minutes, was attended by top members of the CISF along with its senior officers deployed at the airports.

Among those present in the meeting were Javed Abidi, director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), cyclist Aditya Mehta, Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Rajesh Bhatia, Nipun Malhotra and associate professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Satendra Singh.

Instances of humiliation of PwDs
The developments assume significance as in the past, several PwDs have suffered humiliation at the hands of security or airlines staff at airports across India. In 2013, above-knee amputee and marketing professional Suranjana Ghosh Aikara was made to take off her prosthetic leg for a scan at both Delhi and Mumbai airports.

Anjlee Agarwal of the Samarthyam National Centre for Accessible Environments, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, faced two odd situations in early 2012; first, when she was bodily lifted by male porters and the other, when she was carted around on a luggage trolley. Her experience made her seek more dignified travel for PwD travellers.

SC had issued directives
In 2012, Jeeja Ghosh, a teacher at the Indian Institute for Cerebral Palsy in Kolkata, was made to deplane because the staff found her to be ‘abnormal’. Following her appeal, the Supreme Court constituted a committee and directed the DGCA and the BCAS to consult with disabled section of India’s population.

However, according to Singh, despite directions by the apex court, the BCAS continues to evade this directive. However, Singh lauded the role being played by the CISF, saying it continued to “remain receptive”. Singh also noted that the BCAS had chosen to remain absent from the high-level meeting chaired by the director general of the DGCA with the Airports Authority of India, all the airlines and the disability sector on April 7 this year.

However, Abidi appreciated the change in the approach of both the CISF and the BCAS towards the issue. “There has been a lot of discussion and exchange of notes between the CISF and BCAS of late. It was a well-rounded meeting, almost a closure type, and I was impressed by the seriousness of purpose. It was called to problem-solve and to bring about a change,” he said.

BCAS constituted a panel to look into demands of PwDs
Stating that the CISF has already sent its recommendations to the BCAS and that the latter had constituted a committee which held its meeting a few days ago, Abidi said that the CISF had only invited one user of prosthetics and another from the wheelchair lobby from the diverse disability sector. “So the focus was more on prosthetics and the concerns of the wheelchair users”, he said.

As for other categories of PwDs, he said, they too suffer problems but these are not related to security and need to be handled by the civil aviation ministry and other agencies. “The visually impaired are facing a big problem these days since all the airports have been made sound-free and therefore, the announcement of change of gate for departure of flight is not made through loudspeakers. So a blind person is unable to know that the gate has been changed,” Abidi said.

“Similarly, persons with speech impairment find it difficult to tell their preferences to the airlines staff or about food preference to the air-stewards,” he added.

X-ray to be used as a last resort
Acknowledging that the users of prosthetics, orthotics and wheelchairs remain among the worst affected, Abidi said that the new developments are very positive. “Broadly, it has been decided that in the case of wheelchair users, X-ray should be the last option. The standard practice globally was to profile the passengers, frisk them, make them go through the explosive trace detectors (ETD) if need be and to send their gadgets for X-rays if there was greater suspicion,” he said.

“The world over, X-ray is rarest of rare and in all my travels abroad, even to the US in the post 9/11 era, never have I been asked to get off my wheelchair. However, in Indian airports, it is a norm”, Abidi said. Moreover, he lamented, unlike airports abroad, the CISF personnel have been following the norm of making wheelchair users get off their chairs as part of the security drill. So what is rarest of rare the world over, is their preferred norm here,” he added.

Abidi said the blame should not be placed on the CISF alone. “What should also be remembered is that while the CISF drew the flak, the policies are actually drawn up by the BCAS, which prepares the manual and instructions. So the real change has to occur not with the CISF but with the BCAS.”
The rights activist is hopeful that meaningful changes are being effected. He pointed out how the CISF recently undertook a full training programme for its personnel to sensitise them towards autism. The programme was conducted in association with Merry Barua’s organisation, Action for Autism. “It had sensitised the CISF personnel about the behaviour and concerns of passengers suffering from autism and how they were like to react in different situations“, Abidi said.

Note: This article was authored by Sh. Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar and was published on 13th October 2017 at The Wire

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Discriminated for no fault: Airlines, airports in India fail their ‘special’ fliers

Aug 29, 2017, 1:12 am IST  | DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DONITA JOSE

Hyderabad: For the disabled, journeys on domestic flights are tales of never-ending turbulence. Days after the de-boarding of para-athlete Madhu Bagri from a Hyderabad-bound plane, the demand for standardisation of air travel protocols for the disabled has grown stronger. 

Hyderabad: International para-athlete Suvarna Raj says that she was de-boarded from a plane in a similar manner last month. “I reached a little late than usual and was given my boarding pass. But they denied me entry because my security check would take longer,” she says. She missed her flight and was allocated a seat on a flight which departed the next day. 

Experts say that such an incident would have never occurred had India been following International Protocol and using Explosive Trace Detection Systems (ETDs). These systems allow for security checks to be carried out without disabled persons having to part with their accessibility gear. 

A look at the figures (courtesy Times of India)
Nipun Malhotra, the founder of the Nipman Foundation, says, “I filed an RTI and found that over 77 airports in the country have ETDs, but they are not being used anywhere. Instead, we are forced to be transferred from our wheelchair or remove our prosthetic limbs in the name of security.”

Persons with disability ask why they have to undergo such humiliation when the necessary technology is available.

Their troubles do not end after the security check. “As per the procedure that is followed internationally, disabled persons are allowed to take their wheelchairs up to the aircraft door, where they are shifted to aisle chairs which can pass through the cabin. However, in India, the wheelchair goes into the baggage compartment and disabled passengers are physically lifted and carried to their seats, which is not only dangerous but also humiliating,” says Ms Suvarna Raj. Some airlines do not have aisle chairs, in which case the availability of seats in the front row becomes crucial, as was in the case of Madhu Bagri.

As per the protocol to be followed in Boeing flights, disabled persons may be seated in the front row. However, in smaller ATR flights, the emergency exit doors are located in the front, requiring mobile persons to be seated adjacent to them.

Accessibility experts say that some airlines do not have any provision for the assistance of disabled persons, as a result of which they are forced to crawl or drag themselves to their seats, which constitutes a violation of their human rights.

“The crux of the problem is that there is no penalty. Every time a disabled person with some privilege faces a problem, it is highlighted. But many unprivileged disabled persons face problems on a daily basis. Why can’t the Directorate General of Civil Aviation penalise airlines, airports instead of merely issuing warnings?” asks Mr Javed Abidi, the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People. 

Mr Abidi has helped the CISF chalk out a detailed plan of action. He says that the airline services must incorporate a provision for the declaration of disability at the ticketing stage to avoid such hassles.