Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bamboo wheelchair to make metal detectors stay calm at Air Ports Security


Persons with disabilities especially those who use wheelchairs for mobility have some reason to smile! Every time they passed through the Airport security the security devices and metal detectors would start buzzing the moment the wheelchair passed through them and then followed a very rigid regime of examination, questions and physical inspection. It was often humiliating and embarrassing!

Soon it may be done away with- provided Indian agencies also adopt it.  DGCA and aerodrome operators have to take lead to make this happen. We have a National Mission on Bamboo Applications (under Department of Science & Technology) Govt of India and Bamboo development Boards across states which can emulate this remarkable idea and build around this technology.

Here is what Japan Airlines has done. It has developed a bamboo wheelchair for use at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in an effort to speed up security checks. This wheelchair allows passengers to pass through metal detectors at security gates in the airport more smoothly. Without causing the metal detectors to go off, traveling might become a little easier in the near future for people with disabilities. The frame of wheelchair is made entirely from bamboo with rubber tires and carbon wheels. Completely handmade, each wheelchair costs some ¥600,000($7,167). The project is partially financed by donations from celebrities, including baseball commentator Norihiro Akahoshi, a former Hanshin Tigers outfielder who suffered serious damage to his spinal cord while he was a player.

The Airline and a workshop in Oita Prefecture, which is known for bamboo production, worked on developing the chair together. The wheelchair has no materials made of metal and is 90 percent bamboo, including the brake gear. The parts which aren’t made of bamboo are the shock absorbers,  tires, wheels, and axles which are made of reinforced plastic. The chair has been proven to be quite comfortable and has passed endurance tests. The development of the chair has taken four years, and each chair is hand-crafted.

To have a look at how this wheelchair looks like and for further reading:  click on link Bamboo Wheelchair Eases Airport Security   

Friday, September 3, 2010

AirAsia capitalizes on its slogan "Now every one can fly"

Dear Friends,

Its encouraging to know that equitable and dignified flying for the elderly and those experiencing disability is now a major plank for not only CSR activities but also a way to giving boost to the airline business. AirAsia takes lead by representing at a Regional Conference of APCD. Read more on this news item in Travel Monitor section of Bangkok Post

Now everyone can really fly

Known more for its marketing genius than the quality of its low-cost seats, AirAsia again outpaced its rivals earlier this month by becoming the only travel-industry company to be represented at a regional conference on facilitating accessibility for people with disabilities (PwDs).

Although all airlines facilitate travel by PwDs, AirAsia has been faster at capitalising on the marketing and corporate social responsibility benefits of this service as an intrinsic part of its "now everyone can fly" marketing slogan.

With an estimated 400 million people suffering from disabilities in Asia Pacific, half of whom women, and 58 million in the Asean countries, the market opportunity is clear. As most PwDs also travel along with a care-giver, the prospective revenue stream doubles.

Although CEO Tony Fernandes himself did not make the presentation at an Aug 19-20 meeting on South-to-South Cooperation on Disability, he was robustly featured in its various slides, addressing and mingling with several beaming PwDs in wheelchairs.

The meeting was organised by UN Escap in cooperation with the Asia-Pacific Development Centre on Disability (APCD), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.
The objective was to assess progress made by countries in implementing the projects and programmes under the second Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 2003-2012 and to look into the prospects of initiating a Third Decade.

Tanin Kraivixien, the APCD president, said that for the first time, the focus of this year's meeting was the Asean sub-region in order to help create a sub-regional mechanism to cooperate in developing legislation and policies related to equal opportunities and inclusive development for PwDs.

He added: "The Asean sub-region can be a model sub-region to promote disability and development policies and legislation."

Noting that the APCD has more than 1,000 ex-trainees and approximately 200 associate organisations in Asia Pacific, Mr Tanin said that this year's meeting was "epoch-making since the social business sector has been invited to join."
AirAsia was represented by Kenneth Chan, chief for guest services, along with representatives from the Mall of Asia in Manila, Standard Chartered Bank, amongst others.
Mr Chan acknowledged that AirAsia's policies when it first began operations were not all inclusive. Guests with reduced mobility were not appropriately catered for. However, after representatives from organisations of people with reduced mobility met with AirAsia to challenge its "everyone can fly" slogan, the airline admitted it had been wrong and decided to fix it.

The result was an "inclusive" policy that seeks to boost the human capital development of staff as well as enhance the services and facilities offered to passengers. The airline also decided to "champion the cause of guests with reduced mobility with government authorities, airport management, ministries, etc."
Stressing that a lot more can be done by the region's airports to install better facilities and services for PwDs,

Mr Chan said AirAsia "engages in constant dialogues with organisations representing people with reduced mobility to gauge travel needs and requirements - these may change with the course of time, and we have to be very up to date to render the best services."

Nanda Krairiksh, director for social development of Escap, hailed the contribution of key innovators from the private sector who had been invited to offer their expertise and share their experiences.

"Viewing persons with disabilities as contributors to our region's economic dynamism as entrepreneurs, employees or an emerging market segment not only helps to change outmoded stereotypes that we are all fighting against but also enhances everyone's prospects for prosperity," she said.
There are many challenges still to be addressed: "How can we work together to develop inclusive societies that deliver the best services and products and increase accessibility overall for persons with disabilities? How can we serve as mentors and models of change for others?," she asked.

Tackling complex problems requires innovation, "which is best achieved when many minds are strategically working together in an atmosphere of mutual trust, where yesterday's strangers are transformed into tomorrow's allies.

"While many existing laws, policies, plans and schemes might adopt ideal and inspirational language, significant implementation gaps, in terms of statements on what should be done and what is actually done, exist. Hence addressing this shortcoming, whether in the context of discrimination or the provision of accessible environments, remains a crucial area for action if measures are to effectively cater for the needs of persons with disabilities."

Escap's priority is to promote the adoption and ratification by all countries of the landmark UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which entered into force on May 3, 2008. So far, 88 countries have ratified the Convention worldwide.

Meanwhile, the first New Zealand Conference on accessible tourism, travel, and hospitality for people with disabilities and seniors will be held in Auckland on Oct 4 this year.

Further details:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Access violations at your own peril

Dear Friends,

Exemplary penalty of $500,000 has been imposed on AirTran  by the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Enforcement Office for continued violations of the rights of the passengers with disabilities in terms of The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986. The Act requires airlines to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities in boarding and deplaning aircraft, including the use of wheelchairs, ramps, mechanical lifts or service personnel where needed.

U.S. Department of Transportation rules also require carriers to respond within 30 days to written complaints about their treatment of disabled passengers, and to specifically address the issues raised in the complaint. In addition, airlines must submit annual reports to the Department on disability-related complaints from passengers, noting the type of disability and nature of the complaint.  However, it was revealed that the airliner not only failed to provide boarding assistance but also did not give proper response to the complaints of the passengers nor filed proper annual reports required by the rules.

Here is the coverage:  (Click here to read from source)

AirTran Fined for Violating Rules Protecting Air Travelers with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today assessed a civil penalty against AirTran Airways for violating rules protecting air travelers with disabilities.  The carrier was assessed a civil penalty of $500,000, of which up to $200,000 may be used to improve its service to disabled passengers beyond what is required by law.

“People with disabilities have the right to expect fair treatment when they fly, and we will continue to take enforcement action when their rights are violated,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 requires airlines to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities in boarding and deplaning aircraft, including the use of wheelchairs, ramps, mechanical lifts or service personnel where needed.  U.S. Department of Transportation rules also require carriers to respond within 30 days to written complaints about their treatment of disabled passengers, and to specifically address the issues raised in the complaint.  In addition, airlines must submit annual reports to the Department on disability-related complaints from passengers, noting the type of disability and nature of the complaint.

An investigation by the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Enforcement Office of disability complaints filed with AirTran and DOT revealed a number of violations of the requirement for boarding assistance.  In addition, the carrier’s complaint files showed that it frequently did not provide an adequate written response to complaints from passengers.  AirTran also failed to properly categorize disability complaints in reports filed with the Department, the Aviation Enforcement Office found.

Of the $500,000 penalty, up to $60,000 may be used to establish a council to help the carrier comply with federal disability rules and hire a manager for disability accommodations.  Up to $140,000 may be used to develop and employ an automated wheelchair tracking system at AirTran’s major hub airports within one year that will generate real-time reports of the carrier’s wheelchair assistance performance.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Flying fair every step of the way

05 Apr 2009

The Hindu Business Line

New guidelines issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) this week state that when a passenger with disability or reduced mobility has bought a ticket it is “obligatory” on the part of the airline to ensure he/she reaches not only the aircraft but also the arrival lounge exit without incurring any further expenditure. Currently such passengers incur expenditure of Rs 200 for the wheelchair and Rs 2,500 for use of the ambulift for each journey on private airlines.

Immediate effect

Most of the guidelines come into effect immediately and will apply on both domestic and international airlines.

Persons with disabilities not holding any certificate shall also be provided necessary assistance as well as aids such as wheelchairs and ambulifts among others. “In such cases during ticketing or check-in the individual’s degree of disability and his needs for assistance may be confirmed. Airlines shall not refuse carriage in such cases,” the DGCA has said.

The airlines have been given July 31 as the cut off before when they shall have narrow aisle chairs which can move around in the aircraft cabin and be used for boarding and disembarking of passengers not travelling on stretchers. Currently most flights do not carry such chairs, thereby confining the passenger to the seat.

Online form

“It is most upsetting when an airline does not have an aisle chair to transfer a wheelchair passenger to his or her seat. I have experienced it in a private airline and complained about it,” says Ms Sminu Jindal, Managing Director, Jindal SAW, who is also founder of disability NGO Svayam which advocates access for people with disabilities.

The DGCA has also asked airlines to incorporate appropriate provisions in the online form for booking tickets so that all the facilities required by these passengers are made available to them at the time of check-in. Right now such passengers have to request for the wheelchair after reaching the airport.

To ensure that these passengers do not face any problems at airports, the DGCA has asked airlines to make advance arrangement with other agencies such as airport management to ensure that their movement within the airports is not restricted.

More clarity required

“We are happy that these issues are being addressed by fresh guidelines. But we want to warn that even after the guidelines were issued for the first time by DGCA in May 2008, many airlines did not implement them, causing passengers like us grave inconvenience. Even now the issue of ‘Fit to Fly’ certificates is hanging fire. Several international airlines and booking agents are insisting on this certificate before issuing the ticket,” said Mr Rajiv Rajan, Co-ordinator of the Disability Legislation Unit (South), a project of Vidya Sagar, Chennai. DLU had initiated the campaign to bring about these changes in June 2007.

Ms Meenakshi Balasubramanian, assistant co-ordinator of DLU, points out that certain sections of the new provisions lack clarity. “Who will decide on the individual’s degree of disability? Will you take the passenger’s word or will the airline insist on a panel assessing it at the airport,” she asks

Govt more sensitive

Ms Jindal, however, admits that she finds that the Government has been more sensitive to change than the private airlines. But implementation of the guidelines has been an issue. “When the DGCA first passed these rules in 2008, there was hardly any implementation by private airlines and we continued to have embarrassing incidents vis-À-vis access facilities at airports.”