Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Green MEP says Easyjet incident with Dr. Sabry not acceptable

Dear Colleagues,

Please refer to my earlier post on Easyjet's appalling behaviour with businessman Dr Martin Sabry earlier in January this year. After boarding the wheelchair user Dr. Sabry was humiliated by the flight purser  by asking him to read aloud the safety card in front of other passengers and say "I can" after each sentence. And then the purser told squarely that they will not take him!

Reacting sharply on the incident Green MEP Keith Taylor slammed the budget carrier stating that the incident was unacceptable. His report is although non-legislative, but will become the official position of the Parliament.

However, we see a similar kind of pattern emerging from a series of such cases whether Easyjet (France) or in Spicejet (India)! Even in Jeeja's Case, the reply of the Hon'ble Indian Minister of Civil Aviation has been same where airliner seem to have escaped with just a public apology!

This is absolutely not acceptable by any norms.. neither in India nor in any part of the world. Exemplary punitive action and economic penalties are only solutions that the airliners respect the basic human rights and raise their awareness on these issues if need be. You can't escape by saying that the staff was not sensitized or that the staff has been sacked.

Here is the report from Reduced Mobility Rights


Easyjet Incident With Disabled Dr. Sabry Unacceptable, Green MEP says

Published on Friday, 23 March 2012 11:25

Written by Roberto Castiglioni

Green MEP Keith Taylor slammed budget carrier Easyjet, stating that the incident involving disabled businessman Martin Sabry was unacceptable.

"Clearly, the Easyjet incident was unacceptable," Green MEP Keith Taylor told Reduced Mobility Rights.

"Paragraph 58 of my report which covers regulation 1107/2006 underlines the importance of appropriate training of flight crews to cover the ´different and individual needs of PRMs`," the European member of Parliament explained.

"In my capacity as a member of the Parliament's Transport and Tourism committee (TRAN), I met with  many stakeholders over a number of months, in order to inform the first draft of the report "on the functioning and application of established rights of people travelling by air", which covers regulation 1107/2006," Green MEP Keith Taylor told Reduced Mobility Rights.

The report will be voted on next week in the European Parliament's plenary session. "I am confident that it will be adopted, Taylor said.

Although non-legislative, the report will become the official position of the Parliament.

Disabled businessman Martin Sabry, 39, from Cambridge, arrived at Gatwick airport on 4 January 2012 to catch the Easyjet flight to Montpellier, France.

After boarding the aircraft, Mr Sabry was harassed by the flight purser who had him removed from the airplane. "I was made to read safety-card aloud in front all other boarding passengers and say "I can" after each sentence," he says, remarking the unnecessary humiliation. "We will not take you," the purser told him.

"I am pleased to hear of the unreserved apology given to Dr Sabry," Keith Taylor said. "However, it is extremely regrettable to hear that due to lack of resources, the CAA will not be able to pursue this case further."

In the days following the incident, Carolyn McCall OBE, Easyjet's Chief Executive Officer, apologised in person to Martin Sabry. "Our chief executive Carolyn McCall called Dr Sabry directly to apologise," A spokesperson for Easyjet told Reduced Mobility Rights.

The budget airline received a verbal warning from the UK CAA. "In relation to the Dr Sabry’s situation, we have been in touch with EasyJet regarding the incident, to remind them of their obligations to people with reduced mobility," A CAA spokesperson said.

Despite the incident representing a clear violation of Regulation 1107/2006, there will be no enforcement of the law on Easyjet. The Department for Transport is trailing behind most EU states, having failed to provide the CAA a set of sanctions and adequate enforcement powers. "Unfortunately, [enforcement] powers are not very flexible or proportionate and make it difficult for us to take action," Dame Deirdre Hutton, Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority said.

"I think that there needs to be better implementation by the National Enforcement Bodies of the rules that do exist," Keith Taylor said. "Paragraph 3 of my report acknowledged gaps in Member States' implementation and enforcement of Regulation 1107/2006. In subsequent paragraphs the report talks of the need for the Commission to work with NEBs in order to "promote a uniform and prompt enforcement of air passenger rights."

Civil Aviation Minister responds to Parliament Question on Incidents of discrimination against passengers with disabilities



Dear Colleagues,


The Minister- Civil Aviation, in response to questions raised in the Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha on the recent incidents of harassment of passengers with disabilities, replied as below:


GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

MINISTRY OF CIVIL AVIATION
LOK SABHA
UNSTARRED QUESTION NO 1353



ANSWERED ON 21st March, 2012



Differently abled passengers in flights

1353. SHRIMATI INGRID MCLEOD
ADV. GANESHRAO DUDHGAONKAR
SHMRIMATI DAVANA GAWALI PATIL
SHI GUTHA SUKHENDER REDDY
SHRI YASHVIR SINGH
SHRI NEERAJ SHEKHAR
SHRI BIBHU PRASAD TARAI
SHRI M B RAJESH
SHRI SUGUMAR K
SHRI GURUDAS DASGUPTA
SHRIMATI BOTCHA JHANSHI LAKSHMI

Will the Minister of CIVIL AVIATION be pleased to state :-
(a) whether incidents of ill-treatment meted out to some differently abled passengers by the private airlines have come to the notice of the Government recently;(b) if so, the details thereof;(c) whether the matter was enquired into by the Government/DGCA;(d) if so, the follow up action taken by the Government thereon;(e) whether most of the private airlines are not adhering to the rules and regulations prescribed for differently abled persons;(f) if so, the action taken by the Government against such airlines alongwith the details of proper facilities for carrying the disabled persons at various airports; and(g) the detailed guidelines in place for air passengers particularly differently abled persons and the steps taken to ensure their compliance by private airlines thereon?

ANSWERS

MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION ( SHRI AJIT SINGH )

(a) and (b): Three cases of harassment faced by physically challenged passengers were reported to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), two in the year 2011 and one in 2012. The details and Action Taken report on these cases are annexed. No such case reported to the DGCA against Jet Airways during the period.

DGCA has issued Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on “Carriage of Passenger by air with disability and/or with reduced mobility”, which is being strictly adhered to by the airlines. The said CAR is available on DGCA website. Violation of the provisions of CAR is punishable under the Schedule VI of the Aircraft Rules, 1937. 

ANNEXURE

Incident 1: On 10th May 2011, Mrs. Mansuri Shabana and Master Mansuri Lukmaan (Child) were travelling alongwith an infant on Kingfisher Airlines flight on Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Goa sector. They were handed over to the crew on board operating the flight at Ahmedabad. At Mumbai, the ground staff met the passengers on arrival and boarded them on the connecting flight to Goa. On this flight the set of cabin crew realized that the blind passenger was accompanied by an infant and a child. The same was reported to the commander and the ground staff that this carriage was not permissible on safety grounds. The passenger later travelled by Spicejet flight.


The matter was taken up by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) with airlines, Kingfisher Airlines has taken following corrective actions to avoid recurrence of such incidents:
a) The crew and the concerned ground services staff at Ahmedabad have been issued warning letters and have been strongly briefed. 
b) A reiteration of the carriage policy for such travel has been circulated to all concerned. 
Incident 2: Sh. Mohammed AsifIqbal (Disabled from Eyes) faced harassment while travelling on Kingfisher Airlines flight IT 3571 on 30th May 2011 at Patna airport. An indemnity bond was obtained from him. 


Matter was taken up with Airlines by DGCA. As an immediate action, Kingfisher Airlines have terminated all staff involved, including the Airport Manager at Patna airport. In view of this, Kingfisher Airlines reiterated the guidelines to all airports indicating following:
a) A blind Guest who has no medical complications and is perfectly capable of taking care of his/her personal needs must be accepted on Kingfisher flights and is not required to sign an Indemnity form.
b) Such a guest is allowed to travel alone and no companion/escort is required to travel along. 
c) Staff should treat such guest with special care and be sensitive to their needs.
d) In the event of flight disruptions, staff should ensure that these guests are handled with priority. 
Incident 3:   Ms. Jeeja Ghosh, a person with cerebral palsy, was de-boarded from the Spicejet flight SG-803 at Kolkata on 19.2.2012. 

Matter was taken up with Spicejet who informed that when the passenger Ms. Jeeja Ghosh reported at the check-in counter for her boarding card, she did not declare herself to be a person with any disability or with reduced mobility. She was provided assistance to board the flight. As informed by Spicejet, while being seated, the cabin crew observed froth, saliva with traces of blood oozing out of Ms. Jeeja Ghosh’s mouth with her hands folded in an abnormal manner and she was also not in position to respond to the Cabin Crew’s questions. Accordingly, the matter was report to the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) and a decision was taken to de-board Ms. JeejaGhosh on account of her medical condition.

Matter was taken up by DGCA with the airlines. To avoid recurrence of such incidents, Spicejet has re-examined the responsibilities of the pilot-in-command with reference to the provisions of the applicable Civil Aviation Requirements and he is being counseled to display more empathy to deal with such situation in future. Spicejet has also informed that they are issuing necessary instructions to reinforce the existing procedures on handling of persons with disability. 

In this regard, a meeting on the rights of passengers with disability and reduced mobility was held on 12.03.2012 under the Chairmanship of Joint Secretary, M/o Civil Aviation. It was decided that a Committee will be constituted under the chairmanship of JS, MoCA with representatives of stake holders as members to look into best practices in the world on the matter, latest UN/ICAO guidelines on dealing with air travel of persons with disabilities and give a suggestion for appropriate modifications of the CAR concerned and for the improvement of designs of airline websites, accessories and facilities/infrastructure etc. especially meant to facilitate comfortable air travel for the persons with disabilities.



Jeeja Ghosh's Response


Jeeja has reacted very sharply on this reply since this seems to be most insensitive one especially when the DGCA officials have given the version of the airliner as the version of the Government/Ministry. This is despite the fact that DG himself had met Jeeja and seen for himself the disability. Here is how Jeeja responded to the Minister's response, when shared with her by our colleague Muralidharan from National Platform for the Rights of Disabled:





"I am absolutely shocked  to receive this (response). I am groping for words to defend my case. All I can say is this is an absolute misinterpretation of the entire situation. To begin with: 


1. I am a person with cerebral palsy with very obvious and visible physical disability.  There is nothing to conceal regarding my impairment. The very fact that I was provided assistance speaks for it unless all the Spicejet staff members are of "reduced mental faculty" and lack understanding. 


2. I was bleeding from the mouth is another lie. I counter this by saying that if Spicejet is projecting itself as a responsible airlines with concern for its passengers they should have called for medical assistance and not de-boarded me in a humiliating manner. The doctor was called only after the flight had left without me and confirmed that I was totally "fit to fly". I must admit I do drool. But at that point of time I was comfortably seated in the flight reading a book. There was no drooling leave alone bleeding.


3. Also the Assistant Manager of Spicejet at Kolkata airport Mr. Vishu Ramesan did not mention any such incident of bleeding when he spoke to my senior Dr. Reena Sen, Executive Director of Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy.  The very fact Spicejet issued a ticket for me to travel on 20th February 2012 and accepted a letter of complaint from me makes it even more obvious the contradiction in the Spicejet's statement. Unfortunately I was unable to avail of the flight to Goa on 20th February as the humiliation from the Spicejet unnerved me psychologically making me "unfit" to travel.


4. No such episode of bleeding from the mouth was reported to my family either when a ground staff from Spicejet came to drop me home after the entire fiasco. Also Mr. Ramesan came with a tablet apology letter from the Spicejet on 20th February 2012 - why should Spicejet issue even a tablet apology letter when they were so sure they were not wrong?


I am made a humble attempt to defend my case. I will request to forward this response to the concerned authorities. I have also narrated the incident verbally to Mr. Ashok Kumar, Joint Secretary, Civil Aviation when I met him at his office on 20th March 2012. 


Thank you for your support.
Yours sincerely
Jeeja Ghosh"


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sensitization Meeting for Airliners at DGCA Office 20.03.2012

Dear colleagues,

DG Mr. EK Bharat Bhushan chairing the meeting
Today i.e. on 20 March 2012, E K Bharat Bhushan, Director General, Civil Aviation chaired a Disability Sensitization Meeting and ensured that senior officials from all airlines were present at 3 PM in his office. This showed the seriousness on the part of the DG to immediately contain the growing incidences on discrimination and harassment to persons with disabilities during flying.  During this meeting a presentation on the needs of different disabilities was made by a group of persons with disabilities /activists from the disability sector at the request of the civil aviation regulator. The team from disability sector included Mohammed Asif Iqbal (PWC), Jeeja Ghosh (IICP), Rahul Cherian (Inclusive planet), Subhash Chandra Vashishth and Abha Negi (Svayam). 

Jeeja Ghosh and Asif Iqbal talking about common 
myths about disabled
The objective of this sensitization exercise was to ensure that the airliners understand the specific needs of different categories of persons with disabilities while traveling by air and also the legal obligations on the part of airlines as per the DGCA's CAR on carriage of persons with disabilities and that such incidents are not repeated in future. Mr. Rahul Cherian cautioned the airlines that violation of CAR invites heavy penalties and six months imprisonment hence, deviations should be immediately checked.

DG E K Bharat Bhushan who sat through the entire meeting, despite his busy schedule said, "In view of growing concerns experienced by physically disabled persons while travelling by air, we held an interactive session with scheduled domestic airlines."  

He also clarified to the airliners that any such incident will not be tolerated in future.The following decisions were taken in the meeting  :

(a) In next seven days, DGCA will collate a list of DO's and DON'Ts (received from the disability sector) in dealing with persons with disabilities/ reduced mobility and forward them to the domestic airlines who will have to display them on their website within three days of receiving it.
(b) An independent  link/button displaying instructions/provisions of assistance to disabled with Do's and Don't would be provided on the home page of the website of all the scheduled airlines.
Attendees at the meeting from different airlines
(c) All airlines will organize an orientation programme of all airport managers regarding their  responsibility while handling people with reduced mobility who are travelling by air, who in turn will sensitize the ground staff within a given time frame. 
(d) DGCA' s CAR for handling passengers with reduced mobility already exist and should be followed by all concerned in letter and spirit.
Reps from Kingfisher and Indigo
(e) It was brought out during the meeting that a large responsibility of providing assistance at the airport was of the aerodrome operators who were not represented in the meeting and the airlines could only assist while the persons with disabilities reached them or in the aircraft. It was decided that seperate instructions will also be issued for airport operators on handling persons with reduced mobility.


NEW DELHI: In another 10 days, domestic airlines will have to display a list of dos and don'ts on their websites for handling passengers with reduced mobility. 

DGCA Team at the meeting
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by the chief of the directorate general of civil aviation. At the meeting, people with reduced mobility - who allegedly faced harassment at the hands of domestic airlines in the past few months - met senior officials of the airlines concerned on Tuesday to explain the difficulties they face. 

DG E K Bharat Bhushan said, "In view of growing concerns experienced by physically disabled persons while travelling by air, we held an interactive session with scheduled domestic airlines." 

"In the meeting, we have decided to prepare a detailed list of dos and don'ts in the next seven days for handling people with reduced mobility travelling by air. Scheduled domestic airlines shall display these on their respective website," Bhushan said. 

Representatives from airlines and disability sector
Other decisions taken at the meeting included the creation of a separate button on the web home page of airlines to display the instructions in this regard. 

"Airlines will organize an orientation programme of all airport managers regarding their responsibility while handling people with reduced mobility who are travelling by air, who in turn will sensitize the ground staff. Civil aviation rules for handling passengers with reduced mobility already exist and should be followed by all concerned in letter and spirit," said a senior official. 

Separate instructions are also to be issued for airport operators on handling people with reduced mobility. 

A presentation on the requirements of disabled people was made at the meeting by Mohammed Asif Iqbal who is blind. Iqbal was denied a boarding pass - due to his disability - by Kingfisher Airlines last year when he was to flying from Patna to Ranchi. 

"It is obvious the government is taking the matter seriously. Senior airline staff of all domestic airlines was present and through our presentation we highlighted the various needs of people with different disabilities. The meeting was attended by over 50 people of which around 5 to 7 represented disability rights groups," said Iqbal.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Security Personnel (CISF) deployed at airport needs disability training too

Dear Colleagues,


This incident on 10th Feb 2012 with Ms. Davis- Wray, a person with disability, points to insensitivity of security personnel  from Central Industrial Security Staff deployed at the airports in dealing with persons with disabilities. The DGCA's CAR only talks about training of airline staff and aerodrome operators, however, security system are not required to be equally inclusive and seamless. The training needs are far more crucial for all the staff posted at Airports.


In this case, Ms. Henrietta Davis-Wray, a senior global disabled leader, a Jamaica member of the DPI World Council, was in India on the invitation for the Disabled People's International (DPI) Executive Committee meeting. The incident occurred on February 10 when Ms. Davis-Wray was passing through security channels before boarding a American Airlines flight to Chicago.
During physical frisking, Ms. Davis-Wray was allegedly asked to remove her pants because the security officer felt suspicious of the calliper (brace she wears on her right leg). In a mail to her hosts, Ms. Davis-Wray has said she could not forget the look on the face of the security officer “I was so embarrassed of her action. I fully understand the need for such security checks, but consideration should be given to human beings,” she wrote.
In this case, it was not a lapse on the part of the airline but a clear human rights violation on the part of the security personnel, who belong to the Central Industrial Security Force entrusted with the security of the airports.
Read the entire news coverage in the Hindu below:


The Hindu : News / National : Separate department for disability affairs



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Easyjet on the wrong foot again- calls wheel chair user a 'safety risk'

Dear Colleagues,


Another disturbing news, this time from UK, where Ms. Hoarau, a person with paraplegia, while travelling from Paris to Milan, was de-boarded from the aircraft saying that she was not accompanied by a helper hence was  a safety risk! When a fellow passenger offered to play the role of helper, Easyjet officials refused saying he did not check in with her. 


This is despite the fact that there exists a code of conduct to deal with such cases in Britain and during January 2012  the very same airline was heavily penalized for not taking on board three persons with paraplegia during 2008-09.


This is so similar an incident with what happened in Jeeja's Case on 19 Feb 2012. Ah! it goes to prove that the attitude and level of awareness is not very different in India or UK. The world community has to gear itself up to take on these issues by ensuring inclusion as the only mantra from the very childhood. We have seen that the learnings from the short trainings/ refresher courses stay only for shorter periods! Here is the news coverage from online edition of Daily Mail UK:


Disabled woman sues easyJet after being ordered off plane because she was a 'safety risk'



A disabled woman who says easyJet made her feel like a ‘social outcast’ by ordering her off a plane is taking the British budget airline to court in France. Wheelchair-bound Marie-Patricia Hoarau, 40, was told she could not take the flight from Paris to Nice because she was a ‘safety risk’. 


The airline is now facing charges of discrimination for the ‘humiliation’ Hoarau says she suffered. The legal action comes just two months after Easyjet was fined £60,000 by a Paris court for barring three other ‘unsafe’ disabled passengers from flights.


Miss Hoarau, a paraplegic since a cycling accident 20 years ago, said she was allowed to travel unaccompanied on her outbound flight to Paris in March 2010.  But when she boarded the plane to return to Nice, she was ordered back to the check-in desk because she did not have a ‘helper’.


A fellow passenger offered to take on the role, but cabin crew refused because they had not checked in together. She was taken off the plane and given a free ticket on the next flight, while check-in staff found another passenger willing to accompany her.


Ms Hoarau said: ‘I was allowed to board the plane alone, but once I was inside, they told me I couldn’t travel because I didn’t have a helper. ‘I try to cope with this disability every day and being ordered off like that in front of my fellow passengers was a slap in the face.
‘I felt humiliated and like a pariah who has no place in society.’ She added: ‘I am still waiting for a personal apology from EasyJet.


‘Their boss said he was sorry for my unpleasant experience, but only in a press release. I received no phone call from them.’ France’s disabled rights association the APF said: ‘We are looking for an exemplary sentence against Easyjet for discriminating against this woman because of her handicap.’


Easyjet’s French lawyer Philippe van der Meulen said ahead of today’s hearing at the Paris correctional court that the airline had not intended to discriminate against Miss Hoarau.
He added: ‘Britain is one of the only countries in Europe to have a code of good conduct in cases like this.


‘We fly 350,000 people of reduced mobility every year, and less than one per cent of them are accompanied.  ‘In this particular case, it was judged that that the woman was not sufficiently autonomous to fly alone.’ Easyjet’s French director Francois Bacchetta after Miss Hoarau launched her legal action: ‘I understand her feelings but we must respect very strict safety regulations.


'In the event of an emergency, we need to be able to evacuate all passengers in 90 seconds.
‘When a disabled passenger checks in alone, we try to find them a helper but we prefer for this to be done at the check-in.’


In January, Easyjet was fined for refusing to allow three paraplegic passengers aboard flights in Paris in 2008 and 2009.  The French transport ministry said after that ruling, in August 2010: ‘EasyJet cannot hide behind safety regulations for refusing to board passengers who have difficulty moving around.’


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116007/Disabled-woman-sues-Easyjet-ordered-plane-safety-risk.html#ixzz1pMev4KGl



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another fiasco after the meeting on Balatant violations of rights of passengers


Dear Colleagues,

Shivani shares her experience while returning from Delhi Meeting - very unfortunate and can not be digested. What if she was travelling to some destination or had a connecting flight. But I feel, this is no reason to be pessimistic and hope this never gets repeated. However, we need to work to ensure this. The meeting organised by the JS, Civil Aviation indicates a seriousness on the part of the DGCA/Civil Aviation Ministry towards the issue. However, it seems that they need hand holding in implementation of CAR rather than occasional outbursts from the sector. The media hype created over the issue of Jeeja Ghosh had put the Government on the back foot and the meeting was surely to listen to and pacify the sentiments and find a way forward.

However, let this be a new beginning. We need to walk with the DGCA whose sincerely efforts with the activists and NGOs brought in the DGCA's Civil Aviation Requirement on the issue when there existed none.  Only requirement is proper mechanisms for implementation of the CAR and training of the Staff by competent trainers. Yes, we need to insert penalty provisions inserted too so that discipline can be enforced if this doesn't come voluntarily. The DGCA has lots of powers to regulate the airliners and aerodrome operators and I see there is a will also to do it. We need to help them to organize it on priority.

Here are Shivani's experiences:-

AccessAbility: “Blatant violations of rights of passengers- meeti...: It was yesterday that I was retuning from Delhi to Hyderabad after attending a meeting chaired by the Joint Secretary Civil Aviation. The t...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Air India goes in defensive mode while discrimination continues

Dear Friends,

Air India has gone on defensive mode in the case of Anjlee Agarwal saying that they did provide a good aisle wheelchair for transfer perhaps thinking that persons with disabilities can be taken for granted and carried like a sac of potatoes and that they would still be thankful to the airlines for treating them that way! 

While it is appreciated that Air India does provide quality services being the national carrier most of the times, however, this doesn't save them from their liability for occasional slips in the quality of service. This incident necessitates that even quality of services needs to be defined in the revised  DGCA's CAR that we look at revising soon to bring more accountability on the part of all stakeholders and also to provide more teeth and quantifiable rights to persons with disabilities/elderly. 
Mani bundled in to the aircraft on a recline aisle chair

I remember when I travelled with Mr. Samuel Mani, an entrepreneur friend with cerebral palsy to attend an official event at Bangkok during 2007, I was scared to see how inhumanly and mechanically the airline staff bundled Samuel on an aisle chair and dragged him to his seat. I tried to intervene, however, they paid no heed and said they handle people like this on daily basis and it was not wrong.  
 

Instead of first row, he was given a seat much inside

The aisle chair that they used had two rear wheels and they literally dragged Mani to his seats somewhere in the middle of the aircraft while Mani- a person with cerebral palsy struggled, sweated and panicked due to unexplained mechanical handling. while one staff dragged the inclined chair, two held his hands forcefully since his hands were going all over to balance and as a result of sudden posture change!  On top of this, the staff kept commenting and making fun of Mani's inability to reach his seat of his own! 

I wondered why did they chose an aisle chair that did not support Mani's feet, chest and hands! And it seems after all the hue and cry and even after introduction of DGCA's CAR, the system has not improved at all.

A typical aisle chair for use within the aircraft
An example of typical aisle wheelchair will surely have four wheels, handrest, headrest, seat belt in X form, foot rests and foot belts. (Click here for an example). The one that Anjlee was loaded on was a two wheeled recline chair absolutely not fit for use by a person with disability. 


I also wonder on the high quality of service which necessitates "wheelchair passengers to be boarded first and deplaned last in order not to interfere with movement of other passengers." 

Given the circumstances that the toilets in the aircraft are absolutely not accessible, it is all the more traumatic and illogical to hold passengers on their seats for longer duration by putting such restrictions. On the contrary, it should be that they be boarded last and deplaned first to reduce the discomfort till they have accessible toilets on board. At least the wheelchair user can ease himself at the accessible toilets available at the airports!

Another issue is related to frisking of those travelling with assistive aids and devices. artificial limbs. Such travellers are often asked to remove their devices which is cumbersome and humiliating.  When the person is carrying all related documents to prove the genuineness of the equipment, it should be scanned mechanically rather than forcing them to physically remove it. The case of Sudha Chandran, the celebrated actress and dancer who lost her foot and uses an artificial Jaipur foot for mobility has been facing harassment and humiliation at major airports like Mumbai, Trivendrum and Hyderabad to name a few as per Mumbai Mirror report.   Talking about her experiences, Sudha told Mumbai Mirror, "Twice in the last ten days I have been harassed due to my artificial leg. And this happened despite me carrying my medical certificate along. The certificate has all the details including how many screws are there on my artificial leg etc". She further said talking about her experiences about incident of 14 Feb 2012 at Hyderabad airport, "they asked me to undress. I was wearing a salwar kameez and couldn't possibly have undressed. There was also no changing room. They wanted me to remove my artificial leg and show. It was very humiliating. The other people present there came and started watching me. Hope that security people will understand the humiliation that a person with disability goes through due to such checks."

These are critical issues that need to be looked while devising SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for handling passengers with disabilities. The airlines urgently need to provide accessible toilet facility especially for long distance flights. This is a major area of concern to which airliners have been turning a blind eye. 

Here is the coverage from The Hindu:

regards
Subhash C Vashishth
Advocate

The Hindu, March 04 2012

Air India defending wrong action: Disability rights activist
GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR

Disability rights activist Anjlee Agarwal has taken a strong exception to national carrier Air India's claim that she was “not transported in a luggage-trolley” at Delhi airport recently and that she had been “assisted with standard aisle chair as used universally''.

Responding to the claim by the Corporate Communications department of Air India which on Friday stated that she was “extended all assistance as per industry standards” and “at no point of time she was transported in a luggage-trolley”, Ms. Agarwal said she was appalled that the airline was defending its wrong actions.

“I have been travelling with Air India for the last seven years and the picture of the trolley used for transporting me out of the Goa-Delhi flight AI 660 at T3 in Delhi on Thursday would clearly show that such two-wheeled trolleys are nowhere used as transfer chairs,” she said.

No safety belts

Ms. Agarwal said a look at “transfer chairs'' used the world over by airlines would reveal that they all have four wheels, possess a neck rest, safety belts in ‘X' form which lock up near the shoulder and around the waist, and have a foot rest which is easily approachable.

“The trolley provided to me had no neck rest, no safety belts and no proper foot rest. It had just two wheels because of which it had to be tilted backwards for forward movement. While my neck was jacked backwards, the feet were left dangling in the air. The Air India would thus do better to rectify its fault rather defend them.''

Ms. Agarwal said: “Obviously an attempt is being made to cover up because Air India never uses such trolleys elsewhere. Even while I was going to Goa on February 25 by its flight AI 865, this very airline had provided me a proper aisle chair at T3 for the boarding. It should thus probe why the quality of service deteriorated a few days later.''

Air India has also claimed that “wheelchair passengers are boarded first and deplaned last in order not to interfere with movement of other passengers'' and that it has “a very high standard of facilitation to the passengers requiring wheel chair assistance''.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Open letter to Indian Civil Aviation Ministry/DGCA


Dear Sir,

The DGCA's CAR on carriage of persons with disabilities was brought out after much deliberations between DGCA's Officials, Airline representatives, disability activists and NGOs/DPOs working with the persons with disabilities and the elderly. We all had high hopes from the document that was to serve as a guideline.

However, after recent incidences of maltreatment, harassment meted out to the travelers with disabilities, we are deeply pained and hurt. We find that while DGCA's guidelines that we jointly created with great effort are more often disregarded on a regular basis by the airliners. The precise reason behind this is lack of accountability and absence of systems that may promote an environment of respect, trust and proper and transparent  grievance handing machinery. The DGCA doesn't seem to have any power over the airliner in case of disregard shown by the airliner except a show case notice. At least we haven't seen any thing more than that till date.

When this happened to my friend Jeeja Ghosh, I wrote a detailed letter to Jeeja  explaining what as stakeholders we could do. This was not one odd incident. Several such incidents have happened in the past and have even been reported after Gosh's. We all are well aware that many more are never reported by the media since the affected persons do not want to escalate or have no access to the media.  

Under these circumstances, I strongly feel that urgent steps needs to be taken to contain this perennial mistrust and environment of fear and uncertainty created by insensitive attitude of airliners and utter lack of training of the service staff and pilots about the needs, rights and potentials of persons with disabilities.  We need to give teeth to the DGCA's CAR abovesaid and if required amend them to make them enforceable by the rule of law.

I strongly request your indulgence in solving this issue so that human rights of millions of travelers with disabilities and those with reduced mobility are protected, respected and realised.

Thankfully yours,

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate - Disability Rights

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sudha Chandran's artificial leg causes travel woes

Mumbai Mirror | Mar 3, 2012

Sudha Chandran talks about the way she was harassed by the airport security in Trivandrum.

Sudha Chandran has been an example for many. Despite having her right leg amputated, the popular television actress went on to become one of the highly acclaimed of India. However, living with a Jaipur foot is not easy. And the actress has been facing problems during air travel. And it's not because of any physical discomfort. Mumbai Mirror has learnt that Sudha had been facing problems with the airport officials. The actress had been harassed by the security officials in Mumbai, Trivandrum and Hyderabad airports.

Talking about her experience, Sudha told Mumbai Mirror, "Twice in the last ten days I have been harassed due to my artificial leg. And this has happened despite me carrying my medical certificate along. The certificate has all the details including how many screws are there on my artificial leg etc."
Her worst experience was however at the Mumbai airport. "They asked me ridiculous questions. When I told them that I was an actress, they said, 'Arrey pehchaana nahi aapko. Makeup ke bina bahut different lagte ho.' It was quite embarrassing."

Describing the recent Trivandrum incident, Sudha said, "I went to Trivandrum on February 14. The security staff at the airport was extremely rude."

"They asked me to undress. I was wearing a salwar kameez and couldn't possibly have undressed. There was also no changing room. They wanted me to remove my artificial leg and show. It was very humiliating. The other people present there came and started watching me," added the actress.

Hoping that security people will understand the humiliation that a person goes through due to such checks, Sudha added, "I agree that not everyone knows who I am. I am not that famous. However, when I show them all the documents, I just wish they dealt with me respectfully. I wonder what would happen to common people who have issues like these."