Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Top Canada Court favours right to two seats for disabled passengers at no extra cost!

Dear Friends
I am thrilled to see such turnaround happening around the Globe. Though it is applicable to the domestic flights only, it is a remarkable ruling from the top court of the country.

Here are the news for your information:

regards,
Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Disabled Passengers have the right to two seats: Canadian court decision November 20, 2008

Canada's largest airline is trying to figure out which obese and disabled passengers will be eligible for additional seats at no charge after the country's Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the airlines. The Canadian Transportation Agency issued an order last January requiring Air Canada and other domestic airlines to make additional seats free to disabled or obese passengers who need extra room. The airlines' appeal was rejected twice, first by the Federal Court of Appeal in May, and then by the country's highest court on Thursday. Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said Monday they are developing detailed eligibility rules for free seats. The ruling Thursday applies only to domestic flights and will be implemented January 9, 2009. "It's been basically left to the airlines to determine how they are going to comply," Fitzpatrick said. "We're working on it now." Under the ruling, airlines cannot charge extra for an obese person who needs an additional seat or a disabled person who needs space for a wheelchair or stretcher or who must be accompanied by an attendant. David Baker, the Toronto lawyer who fought the case on behalf of disabled passengers, said the ruling will allow more disabled people to travel. Joanne Neubauer of Victoria, one of two people whose complaints sparked the case, said the news made her feel like "an equal citizen in this country." Neubauer who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and uses a motorized wheelchair.

Air Canada and WestJet, Canada's second largest carrier, said they will comply with the transportation agency's order. WestJet spokesman Richard Bartem said his company may consider extending the policy to international flights. Bus, train and ferry companies have long made arrangements for free extra seats, but the airline industry had argued it would lose too much money by doing the same. The transportation agency rejected claims that providing extra seats would impose an "undue hardship" on airlines, saying they can afford the financial burden. The agency estimated the cost to Air Canada at about $7 million Canadian (A$8.7 million) a year and to WestJet at about $1.5 million Canadian (A$1.9 million) a year. The agency said that amounts to about 77 cents Canadian a ticket for Air Canada and 44 cents Canadian for WestJet. To put it another way, the agency said the cost would be 0.09 per cent of Air Canada's annual passenger revenue and 0.16 per cent of WestJet's revenue.

Top court backs free seat ruling for some disabled, obese travellers

Last Updated: Thursday, November 20, 2008 4:08 PM ETCBC News

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a regulatory ruling requiring airlines to offer a free extra seat to certain disabled and obese people. In a decision released without comment Thursday, Canada's top court rejected an application by Air Canada and WestJet for permission to appeal a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling issued earlier this year. The court's decision means airlines must offer a "one person, one fare" policy to disabled people who require room for an attendant during the flight or require extra room for a wheelchair, or for people who are clinically obese and take up more than one seat. Bus, train and ferry companies have long agreed to such arrangements, but the airline industry has argued it would lose too much money by doing the same. The case has wound its way through various agencies and courts for years. It was originally brought forward in 2002 by three parties: * Victoria resident Joanne Neubauer, who has rheumatoid arthritis and requires a personal attendant, wheelchair and crutches.* Eric Norman, a man from Gander, N.L., who had a rare disease that impaired his motor skills. He has since died.* The Council of Canadians with Disabilities. Calgary law Prof. Linda McKay-Panos, who was later granted intervener status, has been arguing for the rights of obese travellers since she was charged for 1½ seats on a 1997 Air Canada flight. McKay-Panos argued anyone who is clinically obese has a disability and should not have to pay for more than one seat. She has polycystic ovary syndrome, an incurable condition that can lead to obesity. McKay-Panos said Thursday she was happy with the decision, but her main concern is how the airlines will implement the new regulations. "I think whatever they do, it has to be done with dignity and not in public and [not be] humiliating or anything like that, and not in front of people on the airplane," she said. Spokespeople for WestJet and Air Canada said they will comply with the decision. Questions surrounding decision But WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem said there are still many unanswered questions. "Will we be putting criteria in place to determine whether somebody travels with an attendant out of necessity or out of desire?" he said. "What is morbidly obese? How are we going to be able to make that determination and implement that respectfully, and consistently and fairly?" In 2006, the agency held public hearings on air travel costs for people with disabilities. This past January, the CTA ruled airlines must offer a single fare to people with disabilities who require an attendant during the flight and clinically obese passengers. It gave the airlines one year to implement the policy. WestJet and Air Canada turned to the Supreme Court after the Federal Court of Appeal rejected their bid to appeal the ruling.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Has the new DGCA's CAR changed any thing for Disabled People in India?

Dear Friends,

I wonder whether the new Civil Aviation Requirements that were enforced few months ago has helped people with disability in India. On the contrary, I see that the CAR seems to have been misinterpreted - thanks to the provision of "Charges for human assistance" - though in this particular case, it was not human assistance but lift for boarding the aircraft that has been charged for! And that too by an airlines that has been preferred so far by people with disabilities as better than private players like JET.

I suppose there has not been proper orientation and dissemination by the DGCA about the impact of the new CAR currently in force, on the Responsibilities of Airlines & Aerodrome operators. So much so that an airlines under the Govt. of India is not aware of the CAR! This indicates that how much training and sensitization is needed for the ground staff who deal directly with the customers - which even CAR necessitates.

This is absolutely against all norms and rules of equality. No country in the world charge for ambu-lift. This is even against the Hon'ble Supreme Court order as a result of which the airlines and aerodrome operators were asked to provide for ambu-lift at any cost.

The airlines must immediately return the amount and apologise for the treatment that was meted out to the user.

If they don't, I am sure besides getting a bad name, they would have to pay up through their noses - for we have a forward looking judiciary to set the things right!


Here is the incident:

SHIVANI GUPTA WAS CHARGED FOR USE OF SPECIAL LIFT MEANT FOR BOARDING AIRCRAFT We had to hire an ambulift from the airport authority. Since they charged us for it, we had to recover the cost from the passenger JITENDRA BHARGAVA, Air India's director (communications)...............Neha Bhayana Mumbai

WHEN SHIVANI Gupta (38), a wheelchair-bound Delhi resident, took an Indian flight to Mumbai on June 16, she was not prepared for what lay ahead.Not only was she physically carried to her flight seat in Delhi, because there was no narrow wheelchair for the aircraft's aisle, she was also charged Rs 1,685 for an ambulift, (a van with a special lift for the disabled) to board the return flight from Mumbai. Gupta, an activist for the rights of the physically challenged, filed a complaint against Indian, the Mumbai International Airport Limited and the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, vested with powers of a civil court to hear complaints regarding the rights of the physically challenged, issued a show-cause notice to the authorities concerned."I felt humiliated and helpless when I was carried by the staff. They were not trained to handle people with disabilities and I sustained bruises on my shoulders. I could not use the toilet because there was no aisle chair," said Gupta.

An Indian spokesperson said: "We provided a free ambulift at Delhi airport because we have our own service there. But in Mumbai, we had to hire an ambulift from the airport authority. Since they charged us for it, we had to recover the cost from the passenger," said Jitendra Bhargava, Air India's director (communications).

According to a May 1 directive from DGCA, charges may be levied for human assistance but the use of aids and appliances to access the aircraft are to be provided free to physically challenged passengers. The fact that Indian charged Gupta Rs 1,685 for the ambulift was in direct breach of this directive.Gupta had pointed out the directive to the airline staff. "But the staff told me that they had not received any written information about the new law," she said.

Spokesperson for Mumbai International Airport Limited Manish Kalghatgi said: "Facilitation of passage to the aircraft is the responsibility of the airline, not us. "When Bhargava was asked why a narrow wheelchair was not available for the aircraft's aisle, he said: "When passengers can't go up to their seats, they are escorted. Since the passenger has made a complaint, we will argue the case when the hearing takes place."

URL:http://epaper.hindustantimes.com/artMailDisp.aspx?article=25_07_2008_003_013&typ=0&pub=264

Regards
SC Vashishth

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Singapore Airlines Shows the Way to Private Airliners in India

Dear Friends,

So, there has been a lot of resentment within the scheduled and non-scheduled airlines in India represented by FIA (Federation of Indian Airlines) on services to be provided to the Disabled passengers in terms of New DGCA's CAR that got issued recently. The FIA even put their comments on the DGCA's CAR on their website available at link http://www.fiaindia.in/Carriage_ofpersons_reduced_mobility.htm

As discussed and pointed out in previous posts that the airlines in India want to retain the authority to charge for the services they might provide to users with disabilties, that too when requested!

I see a very good example set up by the Singapore Airlines which in fact should be a a good lesson to the Indian lobby of airliners. It is further encouraging to note that the Singapore Airlines would soon be launching 'Solidarity Campaign,' an awareness drive aimed at creating an Inclusive society for the disabled.

I wish the FIA (Federation of Indian Airlines) could take such an initiative so that the frequent complaints, denial of rights and exchange of unpleasant views towards each other gets resolved. People with Disability would love to have such welcoming Airlines in India too!

For now, Kudos to Vidyasagar at Chennai for such an innovative partnerning and hats off to Singapore Airlines for showing the corporate airliners in India a better way of promoting their goodwill!

You can read the full articles at:

http://www.svayam.com/?q=node/695
http://www.svayam.com/?q=node/697


warm regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Blatant Disregard to DGCA's CAR and denial of Human Rights

Dear Friends,

This time it is Spicejet. Denying human rights, mistreating passengers with disabilities and then getting away with a simple apology! That seems to be the new modus operandi of the airliners who continue to flout the DGCA's New Car with impunity!

This is just not done!. How long is it to continue! We can't take it any more!

Read the News here:
Paraplegic abandoned in aircraft
Rahul Singh, Hindustan, New Delhi, May 25, 2008

It was a rather turbulent flight for paraplegic tennis player Salil Chaturvedi, who represented India in wheelchair tennis at the Australian Open in Melbourne. On Friday night’s Chennai-to-Delhi SpiceJet flight, he was not provided his wheelchair to disembark from the aircraft and was left cramped in his seat for over an hour.
On Thursday, when Chaturvedi flew SpiceJet to Chennai, he was neither offered priority boarding nor an aisle chair to board the plane. His urine bag was also yanked off. He told HT, “I was carried along the aisle by untrained porters like a sack of potatoes, while I tried to keep my trousers from slipping and closed my eyes to save myself from the embarrassment, as all passengers turned to look at me.”
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation rulebook, effective from May 1, stipulates that a passenger’s wheelchair should be returned to him at the time of disembarking. It is mandatory for every operator to provide ambulifts to enable disabled passengers embark/disembark the aircraft. But despite this, the crew insisted that Chaturvedi use the airline wheelchair. “They wouldn’t understand how I have spent the last two months recovering from an airline wheelchair fall at the Bombay airport,” Chaturvedi said.
SpiceJet regional manager (north) Rahul Bhatkoti said, “We have apologised to the passenger and will take corrective action. Clearly, the crew lacked awareness.” Chaturvedi, who has acted in a Feisal Alkazi play and the Indian adaptation of Sesame Street, was offered Coke after the trauma ended. “I have stopped drinking Coke. Not wanting to hurt their sensibilities, I took a sip and threw the rest when they weren’t looking,” he said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=ad2d3a50-e5eb-462d-a9e3-cc8ed823eaa6&&Headline=Paraplegic+abandoned+in+aircraft+

Regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
09811125521

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DGCA's CAR Guideline on Carriage by air of Passengers with disability and reduced mobility - finally enforced but with qualifications

Dear Friends

Finally the 8th draft dated 24th April 2008 has seen the light of the day after the Ministry of Civil Aviation cleared it to become the new CAR Guideline on Carriage of People with Disabilities and People with Reduced Mobility effective 01st May 2008. This can also be accessed by clicking here: CAR Guideline. We must thank Mr. Kanu Gohain, the Director General of Civil Aviation who had followed very constructive and participatory approach while devising these CAR guidelines where the disability groups including Svayam, deliberated on the content of the CAR word by word. It is but for his open and democratic way of finalizing this CAR that we see 15 good points and only 7 lacunae in the CAR.

Here is a brief assessment of the New CAR viz. Good Points and Issues that still needs to be addressed (Loop Holes). There might be few other areas that I might have left and you may be able to point them out.

I would request you to kindly provide your inputs so that we jointly can fight for rectifying the shortcomings together.


Good Points included in the DGCA’s New CAR
effective 01 May 2008

1. To remove confusion between People with disabilities/People with Reduced Mobility and Sick/medically ill passengers, the new CAR has defined the Incapacitated Passengers as those with medical condition and Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) as those whose mobility is impaired/reduced when using transport (Ref Section 3).
2. It mandates that no airlines will refuse to carry PwD/PRM and their assistive aids/devices, escorts & Guide Dogs.
3. Emergency Evacuation procedures and Training on handling PwD/PRM shall be included in Airline’s Training & Safety manuals.
4. Only trained persons shall be assigned to assist and handling the passengers with disabilities.
5. All Airlines will assist those who wish to travel alone without an escort (Ref. para 4.8)
6. Barrier Free Access, accessible toilets and Assistance Booths close to the entrance (within visible proximity at arrival/departure terminals) with International symbol of Disability at the Airport are mandated in 4.10
7. No limit on number of PwD on a flight. Equal choice of seat allocation.
8. No medical Clearances of special forms shall be insisted from PwD/PRM.
9. All assistive aids shall be provided without any extra costs to the passengers.
10. Pwds/PRMs including Blind passengers shall not be restricted to any particular cabin or seating areas. Guide Dogs are allowed in the Cabin with prior information.
11. Individual briefing to PRM/PwDs /their escorts before take off by senior cabin crew of airline. Blind passengers to be provided Braille brochures and large print brochures besides verbal briefing.
12. Once ticket is confirmed, no further enquiries shall be made (Para 9.5).
13. In case of loss or damage to the mobility equipment during storage and handling, the airlines shall be liable for providing suitable compensation.
14. Assistive Aids and Devices can be carried as hand baggage in the aircraft (Ref: note to para 7.5)
15. In-transit offloading- in case of overnight halt, the accommodation provided should be accessible and barrier free.


Issues that need to be addressed:

1. Para 4.6 “Passengers who declare independence in feeding, Communication with reasonable accommodation, toileting and personal needs are allowed to travel without escort.” This section is discriminatory against people who require some support in areas of feeding and personal needs etc and it gives a right to airlines to disallow the passengers to fly, if they don’t declare independence. We feel that this para looses its relevance in light of para 4.8 which is an enabling and positive para. Thus in view of this para 4.6 should be deleted in toto.

2. Para 4.9 -People not holding any Disability Certificate also to be given all facilities but at a cost. – This is not acceptable since Government of India has so far has failed to provide Disability Certificates to all the disabled population and many do not go to obtain one due to ridiculous and time consuming procedures. Hence, this condition will adversely affect them for no fault of theirs. Also the Airliners have been providing free services to the elderly people who seek much more assistance and support that what a blind passenger might seek. Thus this would amount to discrimination on the basis of disability and we strongly recommend that no additional fee should be charged from any one.

3. Provisions regarding charges for Human assistance are not acceptable as devised by 6.1 (a). By doing so the person with disability would be put on a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis his non-disabled counterparts and would amount to “Discrimination on the basis of Disability” and also against principle of “reasonable accommodation” thus contravenes Article 9 of UNCRPD.


4. There is an inherent contradiction in para 6 of the CAR Guideline: While Opening words are “All assistive aids shall be provided without any extra cost to the passengers.” The first sub para 6(a) provides a loop hole by declaring that “Any charges for human assistance, if required, may be levied by the Airlines.” Similarly sub para 6.4 (b) seeks to charge for narrow wheelchair type aisle chairs which are without armrests and can be moved about in the passenger cabin and can be used for internal mobility by persons with reduced mobility. It says “Any nominal charge in this regard, if levied, shall be paid by the passenger.” The narrow width of the passage in the aeroplane is a design fault and not the fault of wheelchair user. If the present passage could accommodate the personal wheelchairs then aisle chairs would not be needed in its first place. Thus the users should not be penalized /charged for the design fault. It is recommended that for all future procurements of aircraft, the passage, toilets etc having access features should be invariably provided. Till then the aisle chairs should be provided without any costs.

5. The above charges under 6,4(b) also contradict para 9.1 (Assistance on the plane) which provides that All airlines should assist a passenger with disability to get to the toilet. Any PRM would eventually need an aisle chair for internal mobility including reaching toilet. It also contradict para 4.8 which says “All airlines shall provide necessary assistance to PwDs/PRM who wish to travel alone without an escort.

6. Charges for Assistance in Disembarkation at point of transfer and /or destination: In para 7.7 the airline seeks to charge a nominal amount for request for assistance in baggage delivery and getting out of the airport. This is absolutely unnecessary and not acceptable. Any charge for assistance in getting the baggage delivered to a blind person, for example, would put him to disadvantage just because he can not see and needs help to locate his/her baggage! Doesn’t this amount to discrimination?

7. Complaint Procedure – The role of an external agency has not been provided. No time limit for complaint redressal has been given. Earlier, the complaints used to go to the DGCA, CCPD. Now in case of any infringement of the CAR, the user can access the managing body of airlines/airports only who have never in past done any better thing than apologizing- sometimes in person and sometimes in public! Thus we feel that there could be a Grievance Handling Body consisting of members from all scheduled and non-scheduled airliners at a single window as it would be difficult to chase different airlines individually and one would shift the blame on the other in case failure of interline coordination is being reported. Also there should be a time limit for redressal of complaint failing which appeal to DGCA and CCPD should lie.

Regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Monday, February 18, 2008

Has the DGCA Given Up on its CAR for the Disabled?

Dear Friends,

The mighty airliners have got together to strike down the DGCA's CAR for the carriage of the people with reduced mobility that was finalised with the active involvement of many of us negotiating our demands word by word. It was not charity that we asked for. It was something to which the Government has agreed by signing and ratifying the UNCRPD and is very much in line with the Constitution of India and The Persons with Disabilities Act too. However, the powerful lobby of airliners have created this pressure to serve their vested interest.


The detailed story of why DGCA is blinking on the issue can be read here: http://www.svayam.com/?q=node/454 and is covered by today's Times of India.


This is right time that we all get together and not let the Ministry succumb to the pressure of the Airliners under any circumstance. This is a testing time for the mandate of the Indian Constitution and the commitments that the Government of India has made before the national & international community to ensure a rights based society where all citizens especially those with disabilities or reduced mobility are treated equally without any discrimination in every walk of life. Your support is crucial !

SC Vashishth