Friday, October 2, 2009

Tips to make Travel by Place Accessible & Easier!

Dear Friends,
This one is from by Kim Donahue written for Disaboom which I thought would provide good reading for travellers experiencing disabiliites and those advocating the same.
Travel by Plane: Tips to Make it Easier (Click here to read from source: Disaboom)
Air travel is becoming more accessible as the airline industry is becoming more aware of the viable market people with disabilities represent. We as consumers with disabilities can make the most of every opportunity to educate the businesses that provide us with the goods and services when we tell them what we need.
Travelers with disabilities are encouraged to identify themselves to airline personnel and specify their needs. The more we let our needs be known, the more likely it is that our needs will be met. And that is good for everyone. We have listed below some tips we have discovered in our travels and a few we obtained from friends and colleagues who are independent travelers as well.

The greatest challenges for people with visual impairments when traveling by air are finding their seats, locating the washroom and identifying their luggage once they arrive at their destination. To make this process a bit easier, consider these pointers from travel experts:

- Before you start to travel be sure your itinerary is written out in large print.
- At the time you are making flight reservations let the airlines know about your visual impairment. Talk to an agent or review the airline’s website for information about traveling with a cane or service animal.
- When you check in at the airport identify yourself to an agent while pre-boarding. Staff will be there to help and will escort you directly to your seat.
- Once on board, count the number of seats there are to reach the washroom and the nearest emergency exit.
- Visually impaired travelers should know the exact size and color of their luggage to identify it in case it gets lost. A large colorful decal or logo on the outside of your bag can help to easily identify it at the baggage carousel.
- For wheelchair and scooter users planning is the key to have a safe and comfortable trip when traveling by air.

Plan Ahead

1. Reservations should be made as far in advance as possible, but be sure to confirm your reservation and any special request 48 hours prior to departure.

2. Identify yourself as a person with a disability and inform the reservation person that you will be traveling with a wheelchair or scooter.

3. Also request, if you will need them: a seat with movable armrests; an aisle chair for boarding; an accessible restroom; a bulkhead seat; or an aisle seat.

4. If you use a fold up manual wheelchair, you can request that it be stowed in the on-board coat closet. There is only room for one wheelchair and the service is available on a first come first service basis, so you should arrive early to make your request. Plus not all planes have a coat closet.

Wheelchair Damage Control
It would be a good idea to travel with your old, back-up wheelchair. Remove seat cushion and any other parts that could easily become separated from the chair. Take these items into the cabin with you. Or you can put the disassembled parts in the cardboard box and use bubble wrap to protect them from damage. Attach instructions on scooters or power chairs details how and where to disconnect the batteries, also instructions for any disassembly that may be required.

Airport Security
1. When going through security let the screener know your level of ability (e.g., whether you can stand or perform an arm lift).

2. Don’t hesitate to ask security personnel for assistance either to put your items on the X-ray belt, to monitor your items when you are in the X-ray inspection, or to reunite you with them once the screening process is completed.
3. Inform the screener about any special adaptive equipment or assistive devices that you are using and can’t be removed from your body so that alternative security procedures can be applied if needed.

Boarding and Deplaning
1. If you need assistance transferring to the plane seat, take responsibility for yourself and tell the staff how to help you or pick you up, etc. Yes, they should be trained, but you are always safer not assuming anything.

2. Before landing remind the flight attendant that you need your equipment brought to the gate so they can radio ahead to make the arrangements. This can help speed things up.

3. If you have any problems or damage ask to speak to the “Complaint Resolution Officer” (CRO). Each air carrier is required to have a CRO available by phone or in person at all times. This person is specially trained in dealing with problems that travelers with disabilities may encounter.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dear Friends,

Some good news for the disability sector! Now DGCA CAR will have more teeth and every willful neglect or denial of customer facilties and services can lead to 2 years in prison and up to Rs. 10 lac as fine.

I hope these penalaty provisions would now make DGCA's CAR more effective and set accountability of the defaulters. The provisons should be used at every discrimination reported and needs to be circulated widely.


SC Vashishth

To read the news from source click here: Airlines flouting safety rules will have to fork out up to Rs 10L fine

Saurabh Sinha, TNN

10 May 2009, 03:34am IST

New Delhi: Cost-cutting on aircraft maintenance, which endangers passenger safety, will soon cost airlines dear. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has hiked the penalty for violation of rules on safety and passenger comfort — from a measly range of Rs 250-1,000 earlier, it is now a whopping Rs 10 lakh, on the upper limit. And the maximum punishment of one month at present is being enhanced to two years. Working on a philosophy of "zero tolerance for wilful defaulters", DGCA chief Nasim Zaidi is getting the stiff graded-penalty system readied, which will be implemented very soon.

Shockingly, the existing puny punishment has hardly ever been used and old timers don't recall a single case being pursued in any court for enforcement of even the few days' jail term. "There are rules called civil aviation requirements (CAR) for all important aviation sectors like flight safety and passenger rights.

Their violation is now being made a costly affair for airlines and we are going to have a separate team for ensuring that action is taken against defaulters," said a senior official. While laying down strict punishment, DGCA is also simultaneously planning to incentivise self-regulation as Zaidi does not want an inspector raj.

The DGCA has spelt out five levels of violations. Level one has the most important aspect of aviation — air safety — and any violation of CARs here will invite the maximum fine and/or jail term. The other critical areas where violation in aspects of security and safety checks, permit violations, flying over prohibited areas, and air worthiness would also attract the higher-end penalty.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Does DGCA's CAR address training issues (Disability Sensitization) of CISF personnel employed at Air Ports

Dear Friends,

This incident faced by Shruti, is after several reports, awareness raising and finally a Civil Aviation Requirement - a regulation that deals with What, Why and How aspects of flying a person with disability with dignity and independence! Its agreeable that in light of recent terror attacks, the security is of critical importance. However, I feel that while disability equity and handling training for the Airport Staff and Airlines Staff has been addressed by the CAR for all fresh entrants and a refresher course after every 3 years, the issue of training Security Guards from CISF has not been addressed.

We have seen such reports in the past also and it calls for a policy decision at the highest level of the Government of India and in particular, Min. of Home Affairs, Min. of Civil Aviation and DG-CISF to look at this aspect in a more comprehensive way. The Security Staff employed at the Air Ports have no right to be rude to passengers with disabilities. They need to be trained and provisions should be accordingly made for them either in the current CAR for carriage of passengers with disabilities by air or through some additional rules/policy and be strictly enforced.
In February 2009, there was a case of a senior citizen wheelchair user trapped in the transfer bus when the bus engine caught fire. The untrained driver could not put off the fire and the passenger was engulfed in smoke for ten minutes with literally no help! Here is the link to the case, details of which are appended towards the end.

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Incident as reported in news is appended below. To read from source click: Indian Express

CISF guard at airport asks woman with leg braces to take off salwar

Posted: Mar 09, 2009 at 0115 hrs IST

Mumbai: Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel deployed at the Mumbai airport allegedly asked a disabled passenger to take off her salwar for security check because she had metallic braces on her legs. The Indian Express had reported how Mumbai airport has been receiving at least 10 to 15 complaints from passengers every month on the overbearing behaviour of the CISF personnel.

“I’ve never felt so disgusted and humiliated in my life and it was not the first time I was travelling,” said Shruti Paul, who was on her way to Lucknow on a Kingfisher flight last Friday. Shruti, who suffers from polio, said she was wearing a caliper on her left leg and braces on her right knee; this would make the metal detector beep every time she passed through it.

“I pulled up my salwar a little to show her my caliper, but she asked me to take it off in the open-ended women’s cubicle,” she alleged. She said her ordeal lasted about 20 minutes, during which she was made to get up thrice from her wheelchair and asked to remove her salwar.

“They said I was not cooperating with them. But I did all I could, considering the heightened security at airports these days. But I could not take off my salwar. I felt like a criminal,” she said, while stating that the woman CISF guard, P Poonam, kept talking on her mobile phone while she was checking her.

Eventually, a senior CISF officer asked the guard to let her go. “He asked me to carry a disability certificate the next time I travel,” said Shruti.

Sanjay Prakash, CISF’s Senior Commandant at Mumbai airport, was unavailable for comment. “While it is mandatory for every passenger to pass the metal detector to enter the terminal’s security hold area, this kind of behaviour is simply unheard of,” said an airport official.
Another news:
Civil aviation body re-issues old document on handling passengers with limited mobility after a wheelchair-bound senior citizen was trapped in a coach on fireIt took a wheelchair-bound senior citizen trapped in a smoke-filled airport coach to draw the attention of the higher-ups in Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) office in New Delhi to the disregard shown to air passengers with limited mobility in India. Aviation expert Vipul Saxena observed that Saturday's incident highlights a lapse in the procedure laid down by the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) for airlines with regard to handling of passengers with disability/limited mobility.
An airport coach carrying a wheelchair-bound senior citizen caught fire at the Mumbai airport on Saturday, leaving her trapped inside the smoke- filled coach for nearly 10 minutes. In a knee-jerk reaction, the DGCA re-issued a Civil Aviation Requirement document dated May 1, 2008, on Carriage By Air of persons with disability and/or persons with reduced mobility.
All stakeholders in the aviation industry, including those who are regulated by the DGCA, have been asked to respond with remedial feedback on the subject by March 7. Naseem Zaidi, director general, DGCA, expressed concern over Saturday's incident saying, "All aspects of the case will be looked into fully before a report is prepared. All improvement needed has to be brought about." According to officials, major questions that the DGCA could raise include, whether the driver of the airport coach has been trained in operating a fire extinguisher, since his attempts to douse the fire did not yield any results. Also, whether an attendant was accompanying the trapped passenger.
The lady, a passenger of the Hyderabad-Mumbai Kingfisher Red flight, was in an airport coach operated by Nova Aviation for Kingfisher. "The nine-odd minutes taken to rescue the passenger from suffocating smoke drew attention to the efficiency and ability of the ground handling staff," Saxena said. Quoting from the re-issued CAR, Saxena noted, "All airlines and airport managements shall run a programme in assisting passengers with disabilities. The training programme shall be conducted at the time of initial training and a refresher shall be conducted every three years, and only persons thus trained will assist disabled persons in all possible ways, including filling up of travel documents, while providing assistance in flight."
Lessons from Saturday's fire :
  • Better ground handling including sensitisation of airport staff to the needs of persons of limited mobility is the need of the hour.
  • More intense scrutiny of procedures for the yearly renewal of passenger vehicles like checking roadworthiness, proper insulation of wiring, lubrication of all rotating parts, engine oil temperature, safe radiator heating, condition of tyres and brakes, number and quality of fire extinguishers
An aviation expert observed that Saturday's incident highlights a lapse in the procedure laid down by the MIAL for airlines with regard to handling of passengers with disability/limited mobility.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Air Canada pays for discriminating against Deaf Blind Passenger

Dear Friends,

Here is another news where the courts have come forward with a befitting penalty to air carriers "Air Canada" who were found to have discriminated against a passenger with deaf-blindness.

Hope you would welcome the news and we hope that such benchmarks will work as deterrence for any future incident. Here is the news which has been sourced from

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Air Canada ordered to pay deaf–blind man for discrimination

27 Jan: The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ordered Air Canada to pay $10,000 to Eddie Morten –a Vancouver man who is deaf and with limited vision in just one eye –– on the basis the company discriminated against him by demanding he fly with an attendant. "We have concluded that Mr. Morten has established a prima facie case of discrimination against Air Canada. Air Canada has not met its obligation to accommodate him to the point of undue hardship," the tribunal ruled in a decision released Monday.

In August of 2004, Morten called a travel agent to book a flight from Vancouver to San Francisco and informed the travel agent of his condition. An Air Canada reservations clerk, hearing that Morten was deaf–blind, said he could not travel alone and would need someone to accompany him. Air Canada offered the attendant a reduced fare. The airline allows deaf people and blind people to travel unaccompanied because they are considered self–reliant and able to act on their own in an emergency.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Affirmation of CAR by DGCA - It seems to have worked!

Dear Friends,

DGCA has once again affirmed the facilities to the passengers with disabilities for flying in the following article at appeared today in Express buzz appended below

Here is text for your reading:
Inflight care for the disabled
Scaria Meledam
First Published : 07 Jan 2009 10:49:00 PM IST
Last Updated : 07 Jan 2009 03:18:01 PM

ISTKOCHI: No airline should refuse to carry persons with disability or persons with reduced mobility, their assistive aids/devices such as wheelchairs, stretchers and incubators, and their escorts, and even their guide-dogs, provided the airline is informed of the requirement - so mandates the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) known as “Carriage by Air of Persons with Disability and Persons with Reduced Mobility,” issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

No medical clearance or special forms should be insisted on from persons with disabilities or persons with reduced mobility who only require special assistance at the airport for embarking/disembarking and a reasonable accommodation in flight. A medical clearance can be insisted on by the airline only if the passenger suffers from a communicable disease, or requires medical attention or special equipment to maintain health during the flight, or if there exists a possibility of the medical condition being aggravated during the flight or if the passenger, on account of certain diseases or incapacitation, has an adverse physical condition which could have an adverse effect during flight and on safety and emergency evacuation procedures.

Any passenger having any of the conditions mentioned above should be subjected to prior clearance for air travel by the medical departments/advisors of the carrying airlines.

Persons with specific disabilities should plan to have all the required forms of assistance ready in advance, to avoid flight delays. Forms and information should be made available on each airline’s website. In case the passenger requires a connecting flight with another airline, a medical clearance need not be availed again. The one accepted at the first point of check-in is transmitted by the first airline to the connecting one.

If carriage of any such passenger is refused, it should be after referring to the airline’s medical advisors in accordance with a procedure which should be documented by the airlines.
For such clearance the airline can seek the necessary medical information from the passenger concerned or representatives.

The forms for providing such information to the passengers by the airline staff should be made available on the airline’s website. The airline should establish a procedure for expeditious clearance by the medical department, where required, to avoid delays causing inconvenience to passengers.

Airlines should provide necessary forms and procedures on their websites and through their call centres/agencies to make the process simple. Passengers should pre-clear themselves with the airline.

The airline should ensure that at the time of check-in the airline staff is alerted and should verify that all needs required by such passenger and stated in advance in the relevant forms have been made available.

The procedures involving medical clearances should be documented and published in each airline’s website. All assisting devices such as wheelchairs should be provided without any extra cost to the passengers. However, charges for human assistance, if required, can be levied by the airlines.

Airlines should ensure that wheelchairs are available at all stations, for boarding and disembarking purposes, before departure, during intermediate stops and on arrival.

They should also ensure that advance arrangements are made with other concerned agencies like Airport Management, where necessary, to ensure that movement of persons with disabilities and persons with reduced mobility within the airport is not restricted.

Passengers who intend to check in with their own wheelchair should be given the option of using a station/airport wheelchair.

Passenger’s wheelchair should be returned to him to enable him to transfer himself from the aisle seat directly into his own wheel chair. On advance request, the airlines should make stretchers and associated equipment (blankets, pillows, sheets, nursing materials and privacy curtains etc.) available for passengers who cannot use the standard airline seat in a sitting or reclining position for the class of service desired.

Every airport operator should make provisions, including ambulifts, to enable disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility to embark and disembark the aircraft without inconvenience.

These provisions can be made in coordination with airline operators, if required. Airlines should ensure availability of low floor accessible buses at the airports to enable easy boarding and alighting by disabled persons, immobile or incapacitated passengers not travelling on stretchers.

The airlines should make available narrow wheelchair-type devices, without armrests, preferably foldable type that can be moved about in the passenger cabin. Airport Management Authorities should provide ramps at least at the main entrance/exit to the terminal building for easy access.

Upon request the airlines should endeavour to make available on board a special wheel chair capable of carrying a handicapped passenger to enable them to use lavatory facilities, which can also be used as a boarding /disembarkation vehicle where they are not available.