Thursday, May 31, 2012

New 787 Dreamliner from Boeing becomes the first accessible aircraft

Dear Colleagues,

Something good to share! Boeing has re-designed its lavatory to make it more accessible to persons with disabilities. Its slightly old news but its important since we haven't in India yet woken up to demand that all furture aircrafts bought by the airlines- private or government, must adhere to accesibility requireements. Therefore, it is important that the Governemnt of India and the airliners while procuring new aircraft for their fleets, specify the mandatory accessibility requirements  to the supplying companies. Best would be to include this requirement in the Tender document itself!

Here are the media release from Boeing:

Boeing Unveils Improved Access Features on the 787
EVERETT, Wash., March 26, 2007 -- When Boeing's [NYSE:BA] newest airplane, the all-new 787 Dreamliner, enters service in 2008, passengers will experience a more comfortable flight because of enhanced accessibility features.
"We analyzed accessibility issues passengers face on today's airplanes and incorporated advancements to better accommodate passengers of all ages and capabilities," said Mike Bair, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. "These advancements, coupled with the Dreamliner's larger windows, bigger carry-on bins, lower cabin altitude and cleaner air, will ensure that everyone enjoys a better flying experience on the 787."
Boeing partnered with the National Center for Accessible Transportation at Oregon State University to research accessibility improvements. As part of the research, Boeing engineers who design interiors were placed in simulated environments to better understand accessibility issues faced by persons with mobility, sensory and cognitive disabilities. In addition, the team worked with individuals with these disabilities to verify improvements.

Virtually all aspects of the Dreamliner's interior enhance passenger comfort. For example, all lavatories aboard the 787 Dreamliner feature universally designed interior and exterior door handles that are more intuitive and enable easier access by passengers with limited hand agility. Assist-handles installed in all lavatories are easier to grip and offer passengers better stability through improved design and location. "Touchless" features including faucets, toilet flushing and waste flaps can be activated by infrared sensors in addition to their traditional mechanical operation, making them easier to use.

Boeing is offering two wheelchair-accessible lavatories on the Dreamliner, each with significant advancements. The 56-inch longitudinal lavatory repositions the entryway door and toilet to provide extra usable space and makes it easier for passengers to reach and use the facilities.

A 56-inch by 57-inch convertible lavatory includes a movable center wall that allows two separate lavatories to become one large, wheelchair-accessible facility.
787 Wheelchair-accessible lavatory (Neg#: K63989)
Photo Credit: Boeing Media Release 

Other wheelchair-accessible lavatory improvements include an additional toilet flush button on the sink cabinet and a fold-down assist bar to aid independent transfers.

Additional enhancements are sprinkled throughout the airplane. Exterior assist handles are better positioned to accommodate passengers of all heights and levels of mobility. Overhead stowage bins are easier to reach, and latches work whether they are pushed or pulled, eliminating uncertainty. Bigger closets are offered that enable personal wheelchair stowage in the passenger cabin, while special closet features will better secure the wheelchair. As on current airplanes, aisle seats will have movable arm rests that offer passengers with disabilities easier access to their seats.

"Boeing is making an ongoing effort to identify opportunities to improve the flying experience," said Bair. "The 787 Dreamliner will set a new industry standard for accessibility on airplanes." 

Kate Hunter-Zaworski, Professor of civil engineering and director of OSU’s National Center for Accessible Transportation worked hard with the  engineers of Boeing on improving the accessible lavatory.

For your information, at Oregon State University, the National Center for Accessible Transportation (NCAT) is conducting basic research on accessibility issues and developing practical, cost-effective improvements in transportation technologies, with the goal of making transportation more accessible for everyone...

To watch the full news on a video visit


Monday, May 21, 2012

Indigo also sings the same song after harassing a passenger with disability

Dear Colleagues,

Another tale, however it is surprising to see that it is coming from Indigo this time which is considered by the disability sector to be a sensitized air carrier! It is disappointing and calls for urgent action on the part of the senior management team. And training not only for the Indigo staff but also for the security officials posted at the Airports. Here is the news from the Times of India.

Prerna Sodhi, TNN May 19, 2012, 01.41AM IST

NEW DELHI: A day after wheelchair-bound Shuaib Chalklen alleged harassment by IndiGo staff, the airline responded to TOI's queries on Friday afternoon, saying the personnel checking in the passengers inadvertently wrote paralysed on the boarding card of the special rapporteur on disability with the UN Commission for Social Development.

The email received from the airline says, "The IndiGo staff checking in the passengers inadvertently wrote paralysed on Mr Chalklen's boarding card which is NOT the usual process that IndiGo follows. We are taking serious action against the IndiGo staff. We regret the inconvenience caused to Mr. Shuaib Chalklen and hope he will see this experience as an aberration and not the rule at IndiGo."

Chalklen, who has been wheelchair-bound for 35 years, said he had received no word from the airline. He said the airline was avoiding the basic issue. "The basic issue is that they do not have a trained staff or the necessary equipment. How do they plan to take care of passengers with disability in future?" he said.

The email claimed Chalklen was offered the airline wheelchair at the check-in counter on Thursday afternoon as his wheelchair was slightly larger and could not pass through airport security. "Mr. Chalklen was requested to move to the 'IndiGo wheelchair', however, Mr. Chalklen chose to use his own wheelchair and this was refused by CISF at security area."

It added: "IndiGo wheelchair was shadowing the passenger. The staff at once provided the wheelchair (not an aisle wheelchair) and the passenger's wheelchair was sent back to the check-in counter to be tagged and sent through the in-line screening."

On Chalklen's allegation about the confusion over seat on the Mumbai-Delhi flight - he had said that after a passenger refused to swap seats, he was asked thrice if he could move slightly, stand or walk to another seat - the airline said, "Mr. Chalklen was originally assigned seat 3C, however, the assistant manager requested passenger seated on seat 1D to move to 3C. This took few minutes."

Echoing Chalklen, activist Javed Abidi of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People said such an incident was not new and the airlines were avoiding the basic issue. "The airlines have to answer where are the aisle wheelchairs, the wheelchairs. We are going to follow it up with the authorities concerned as these incidents are happening repeatedly," he said.

The chairperson of Svayam, Sminu Jindal, said that taking action against or dismissing the employees at the lower strata was not the solution. "The top notches have to understand that the policies have to percolate down to the lowest level," she said.

She added, "Apologizing and issuing public statements is not enough. The need of the hour is clear-cut instructions on things that are non-negotiable and this has to go down to the bottom-most level."


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jet Airways get its staff sensitized in disability equity

Dear Colleagues,

This is subsequent to my earlier post on the meeting at the DGCA's office with the senior representatives of the airlines operating in the country. Here is a message from our colleague Md. Asif Iqbal about the Sensitization Training that he and Ms. Jeeja Ghosh conducted for the Jet Airways on 10th May 2012 wherein some 103 employees of Jet Airways participated.  While this is a good news that such initiatives have started, there is a need to standardize the course content and have these trainings across all airlines under the supervision of the DGCA.

Message from Md. Asif Iqbal

Dear all,

I am pleased to inform you that Jet airways have taken an initiative to sensitize their ground staff through road shows at all Metros.  As you are aware; I and Jeeja Ghosh who was victim of discrimination by airline officials were invited to conduct training sensitization program for ground staff of Jet airways in New Delhi.  I and Jeeja both shared our story of discriminations, challenges in life along with miths of disability.  We both conducted two sessions and 103 employees of Jet airways attended our session on may 10, 2012.  General manager customer Service for Jet airways, Mr.Tejinder Singh who is leading this initiative is confident that we would be able to make a impact on changing attitude and perceptions of ground staff while they handle guest with special needs.

Jet airways is going to role out this initiative to Mumbai and other metro. While I welcome the initiative of policy reform which will take while before it is implemented. I thought offering our assistance with regard to
conducting training and sensitization to ground staff of airlines might be most practical and quickest solution in illuminating discrimination.

I also had a meeting with deputy director General civil Aviation, Mr. Lalit Gupta, requesting him to replicate Jet airways initiative to all other domestic airlines in India.  I and Jeeja were pretty satisfied with yesterday's training and look forward to support such initiative in the future.

Thanks and regards