Tuesday, November 19, 2013

US Airways fined 1.2 million for disability discrimination

Dear Colleagues,

In a recent development the US Department of Transportation has fined US Airways $1.2 million for failure to provide wheelchair assistance to passengers with disabilities in Philadelphia and Charlotte, NC.  This fine is one of the largest ever assessed in a disability case by the Department.

I had shared in my last post titled "Fellow passenger's leave aircraft in protest as Captain offloads blind traveller with guide dog" wherein showing solidarity with the blind passenger with a seeing dog, the entire group of travellers had left the aircraft in protest in the instant case.  

According to the US Transportation department’s regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to provide free, prompt wheelchair assistance when requested by passengers with disabilities. That includes helping passengers move between gates and make connections to other flights. 

Michelle Mohr, a spokeswoman for US Airways said in a telephonic interview to Forbes that the airline is committed to serving passengers with disabilities and had implemented many improvements to its disability assistance program since 2011 and 2012 complaints. 

These improvements included: new airport signage and handheld devices, tablets, dispatching software that allow employees to track the need and wait times of customers and availability of personal and wheelchairs, a new toll free number, more customer assistance reps and managers and easier website access and an upgraded reservation system to ensure that requests are automatically transferred if a customer's itinerary changes.

"Air Access" designed by British Designers Priestmangoode can potentially change how wheelchairs users fly

Priestmangoode: air access designs of the year 2013 shortlist

The 'designs of the year 2013' exhibition opened at London's design museum on March 20th, 2013 presenting the more than  90 nominations of this year's contest, divided into seven categories: architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport. 

One of the selected shortlisted projects was 'air access' by British transport designers priestmangoode, a concept which transforms air travel for passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs) with particular benefits for long haul trips on wide body planes. 

Facilitating an easier transition between gate to aircraft, 'air access' is composed of two components: a detachable wheelchair which passengers are assisted into at their departure gate, transporting them onto and off the airliner; and a fixed-frame aisle seat which is already on board in which the wheelchair is seamlessly mated via 360-degree pivoting wheels, sliding sideways into the infrastructure and locked in place. 

The result is a regular airline seat. upon arrival, 'air access' is simply unlocked and slid out into the aisle and the passenger is wheeled off the plane and transferred to their own / or airport wheelchair, or zimmer frame.

This is how the seat in locked position looks like! (source: Designboom)

The Air Access Chair Promises to Change the Way Airlines Transport Passengers in a Wheelchair
This is how the seat looks when removed for mobility! (Source Designboom)
Called ‘Air Access’, this seat could potentially be installed into all aisle seats on an aircraft. And that would mean that::
  • There would be more seating available for passengers with disabilities, and mobility-impaired passengers would get to sit with their traveling companions in larger groups, particularly on wide-body planes.
  • Using the toilet becomes infinitely easier, because all you’ll need is assistance to unlock the seat and be wheeled up the aisle.
  • The seat pad is removable, so passengers with a spinal cord injury and other conditions can sit on their own specifically designed cushion for maximum comfort during the flight.
  • Because it integrates seamlessly into the plane’s interior, anyone can sit in the seat when it’s not being used by a passenger with a disability.
Air Access is comprised of two elements: a detachable wheelchair into which passengers are assisted at their departure gate so they can be easily transported on and off the aircraft, and a fixed-frame aisle seat already on board. The wheelchair has 360-degree, pivoting wheels so it slides easily into place and locks securely. It looks just like a regular airline seat. At the end of your flight, the wheelchair unlocks from the frame, and you exit the aircraft as effortlessly as you boarded.

See the video of Air Access here. http://vimeo.com/48791724

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fellow passenger's leave aircraft in protest as Captain offloads blind traveller with guide dog

Dear Colleagues,

An interesting article from philadelphia.cbslocal.com &  rawstory.com on an unusual solidarity shown by fellow passengers agaisnt the highhandedness of the Aircraft Captain to offload a blind passengers travelling with a guide dog in USA. In the end, the aircraft did not fly as all the passengers walked out in protest and refused to fly unless the Blind traveller with his seeing dog was taken in. The passengers were then driven to their destination by a bus. Incident is being investigated.

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, November 14, 2013 13:53 EST

Airline passengers rallied around a blind man Wednesday night after he and his guide dog were removed from the plane.

Albert Rizzi and his seeing eye dog tried to board a US Airways express flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Long Island, but passengers said flight attendants would not allow him to bring the animal onto the plane unless it could travel under a seat.

The flight was delayed for about an hour and a half on the tarmac, and the dog became restless, and other passengers said a flight attendant ordered Rizzi and his guide dog off the plane.

“The lady comes back and gets very insistent, and I said, ‘Look, I don’t understand what you want me to do,’” Rizzi said. “’He’s as best as he can, he’s where he needs to be,’ and I hear nobody else moving, and as I’m walking to the front, I’m like, wait a second, why am I the only one getting off?”

The rest of the passengers banded together and said they refused to fly unless the man and his dog were permitted back onto the plane.

“Blind man and his dog just got kicked off @USAirways after we’ve been on the tarmac an hour, bc dog wiggled a bit. Whole plane outraged,” one passenger tweeted from the flight.

Another passenger said the flight attendant gave Rizzi about one minute to calm his dog before removing him.

“He tried to do whatever he could, and she went back to the front of the plane,” the passenger said. “We were taxiing like we were going to take off, and at that point in time, we’re about to take off, and all the sudden the captain gets on the PA and says we have to head back to the terminal … We were all kind of raised our voices and said this is a real problem. So the captain winds up coming out of the cockpit, and he basically asked us all to leave the aircraft.”

US Airways officials say Rizzi was verbally abusive to the flight attendant and that crew safety was a factor in removing the blind man and his dog from the plane.

The other passengers were boarded onto a bus and driven to Long Island, where they arrived about 2:30 a.m. The airline is investigating the incident.

November 14, 2013 9:58 AM

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An investigation is underway after a blind man says he was thrown off a plane in Philadelphia along with his service dog.

Albert Rizzi and his seeing eye dog were on a US Airways express flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Long Island Wednesday night.

Passengers claim the airline would not allow Rizzi to bring his dog on the plane, unless it could travel under the seat.
After a delay on the tarmac, the dog apparently became agitated, and that is when passengers claim a flight attendant kicked Rizzi and the dog off the plane.

“What I’m concerned about is that there are tremendous number of individuals in the disabled community who might not have the stamina, the strength, the confidence to stand up for their rights and speak out against these types of ridiculous perceived rules,” Rizzi said.

The incident triggered an unusual show of solidarity from other airline passengers. One passenger Tweeted: “blind man and his dog just got kicked off @USAirways after we’ve been on the tarmac an hour, bc dog wiggled a bit. Whole plane outraged.”

For its part, a spokesperson for US Airways released a statement that confirmed that “on flight 4384 from Philadelphia to Islip, Long Island a customer with a seeing eye dog was asked to keep his dog near his feet when the dog was walking up and down the aisle. The protocol for service animals is to keep them at foot of the passenger, or under the seat, as they are considered extensions of the passenger. When a flight attendant asked the passenger to keep the dog where it needed to stay for safety reasons the passenger got verbally abusive. A decision was made to return to the gate to take the passenger and the dog off the plane. At that point, other customers were unhappy about the situation. The crew did not feel comfortable operating the plane so a decision was made to cancel the flight and U S Airways bussed the passengers to Islip NY.”

The spokesperson confirmed that an internal investigation is underway.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rigid and Untrained Security Staff at Delhi Airport humiliate disabled passengers yet again

By Nishtha Grover, Oct 20, 2013 (First post)

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport’s T3 terminal is known for its swanky interiors and modern architecture, but when it comes to the quality of security personnel’s training at the airport, the standards are truly of the past. 

Rajesh Bhatia has now dealt with this horror, twice. On 8 October, the Bhatia family were setting off on their holiday to Thailand, when Rajesh, while moving through security, encountered the metal detector beep. The security staff seemed confused. After Rajesh explained and showed relevant documents about his prosthetic limb, they called a senior rank officer. Turns out that the senior officer was also confused and eventually the passenger had to be taken into the officer-in-charge’s room. Rajesh was asked to strip and remove his artificial limb  which was then put in a tray for scanning separately. 

Agitated and humiliated, Rajesh resisted and said it is against his dignity to remove his prosthetic leg. Rajesh’s wife recorded the whole incident this time, to base their grievances and seek immediate help. 

Rajesh still feels humiliated when he narrates how the officers mocked him. “I was asked about if I got married before or after my amputation… don’t know what sense that made,’ he adds. Pushpa Bhatia, 72, mother of Rajesh adds, “It was a horrible situation for us, I was myself in a wheel chair and no one told me where my son was… my grand daughters also panicked and it became very difficult for us to get updates from the staff.” 

This was the second time he was stalled at the security check. The last episode was when Rajesh was to fly to Tokyo, he complied with the authorities but left no stone unturned to reach out on behalf of the differently-able after. “After the incident in 2012 when I was to fly to Tokyo, I wrote to the Bureau of Civil Aviation  I even addressed my letters to VVIPs, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime minister, but got no response,” says Rajesh.

His letters were a cry for help: “Having lost my right leg above the knee in a near-fatal accident 23 years ago, I have been confronted with the inhumane and cruel face of society on a daily basis. I have kept my patience all these years. However my recent experience with the unjust behaviour of security personnel at the Indira Gandhi airport has aroused tremendous anger in me.”

Bhatia, has travelled across the globe since his accident and the treatment he gets in India is different from worldwide attitudes. Rajesh’s experience earlier in the month highlights the problem faced by many passengers. He makes a few recommendations based on his experience with the security staff at airports globally. “I have travelled to Europe and other countries where there is a simple pat down search, they follow different SOPs for differently abled,” Rajesh adds. 

Apart from the issue at hand of a security check, there is another issue of grave concern, lack of training to the personnel, that ensures a certain humanity, he explains. He recommends that personnel should be trained and the training be refreshed every three months. He also suggested that simple checking procedures implemented in international airports be employed in India too. Same gender staff should be allowed to deal with the differently-abled and if a person is uncomfortable, he or she should be accompanied by a family member in scanning room, he said. 

Samarthayam, a Delhi based NGO, working in tandem with Rajesh, has offered to train personnel on how to deal with the differently-abled. The NGO has also worked on a handbook with guidelines under various categories – training for dealing with passengers in wheelchairs  people with prosthetic limbs, training on scanning and most importantly, training on social skills. 

The incident is an alarming reminder of a similar ordeal another differently-abled flier had to face in Delhi and Mumbai airports a few months back. Suranjana Ghosh, a 37-year-old media professional had written a blog post about how humiliated she felt when the authorities at Mumbai airport forced her to remove her prosthetic limb – an act that requires her to strip waist down.  In fact, Ghosh had told the media that she had been subject a similar kind of humiliation at the Delhi airport too. While the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, conducted a meeting in August this year, nothing concrete seems to have come out of it. While Rajesh continues to fight his battle, it is time India’s humanity stood up and treated the differently-abled with the respect that is their right as citizens of a democracy.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/living/rajesh-bhatias-story-why-indias-airports-arent-truly-international-1182875.html?utm_source=ref_article

Friday, September 27, 2013

Separate Mandatory Chapter in Metro DPRs on Accessibility Features

Smriti Kak Ramachandran, New Delhi 27 Sep, 2013

To get their metro railway systems sanctioned, States will now have to give in writing how they propose to make the transport system accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly. The Union Urban Development Ministry has decided that all detailed project reports (DPR) submitted by States wanting a metro system will have to mandatorily include a separate chapter on accessibility for the elderly and PWDs.

The first such instruction has been issued to the Uttar Pradesh Government; Though its DPR for the Lucknow metro is ready, the State Government has been given 15 days to include a separate chapter, detailing what measures will be taken in the civil works as well as in the rolling stock to ensure accessibility for all.

“The DPR for Lucknow metro will have to include specifics on how accessibility will be ensured and this has been conveyed to them. This is the first time that such an instruction has been issued, but we are on our way to making it a policy for all future metro projects,” said C.K. Khaitan, Joint Secretary (Urban Transport) in MoUD.

Accessibility requirements include ramps for wheelchair users, handrails, elevators, special washrooms,  instructions in Braille, and facilities for the hearing and speech impaired. Also, seats have to be reserved for PWDs and the elderly in coaches.

“Dr. Sudhir Krishna [Secretary MoUD] is very particular that there should be focus on accessibility in metro systems and it should be incorporated at the initial policy level so that the implementation is smooth. It is easier to plan for features like station design and facilities within the coaches at the time of creating a system than retrofitting at a later stage,” Mr. Khaitan added.

He said the issue of accessibility is also critical vis-à-vis futuristic planning as the number of elderly people is going to increase substantially in the coming years.

Disabled rights activists, however, caution that mainstreaming of PWD and elderly should not be limited to installation of ramps and elevators inside stations and reserving seats in coaches; it should include facilities that allow accessibility to the stations as well.

“There is no seamless access to the stations, which has resulted in stations being islands of accessibility. There are no tactile paths on roads and footpaths leading to the stations, announcements that are useful for the visually disabled are not made regularly, there are no folding ramps that allow safe passage of wheelchair users, or those who use crutches and walking sticks into coaches. Accessibility has to be well configured, linking all aspects of the journey,” said Anjlee Aggarwal of the disability rights’ group Samarthyam.

There is also a need to ensure emergency evacuation plans for PWDs and the elderly, she said.

Source: The Hindu

Friday, August 30, 2013

Airline staff remain insensitive to female passengers with disabilities - offered to lift instead of getting a wheelchair

And here is another incident that exposes the hollow claims of airlines of being sensitive to the passengers with disabilities. We haven't heard about this from Indigo who is otherwise considered as "Disabled Friendly" - perhaps the lack of training and sensitivity among the staff and greed to earn more money is what seems the reason behind this. Here is the coverage from The Hindu.

Smriti Kak Ramachandran

NEW DELHI, August 30, 2013
As she left home to represent the country at the wheelchair tennis tournament in Bangkok as India’s first ever woman participant, Madhu Bagri was not prepared for a trip that included being forced to pay extra for her sports wheelchair, being left stranded inside the aircraft for an hour and an uncooperative staff that offered to “lift her” instead of helping her out in a wheelchair as is mandated by law.

Ms. Bagri, who travelled to Bangkok for the International Tennis Federation-conducted tournament on August 18 from Ahmedabad, told The Hindu that her ordeal began at the airport, where IndiGo asked her to pay Rs.4,200 for the second wheelchair. This when officials had assured her earlier there would be no extra charge for the second wheelchair.

“At the time of booking the tickets on May 29, I was assured that the second wheelchair will not be counted as extra baggage. The airline executive told me that they could not give it in writing, but would make a note on my travel details. On the day of the journey [August 18], I called the customer care in the afternoon and was again once reassured the same. But when I reached the check-in counter, I was forced to pay more. Since there was hardly any time, I paid up.”

The flight from Ahmedabad to Bangkok with a stopover in Delhi was much worse. On landing in Delhi, Ms. Bagri was told that the airline’s wheelchair was too big to enter the aisle. “I was made to wait inside the aircraft for an hour; they couldn’t find a wheelchair that could enter the cabin. The airline staff was insensitive and offered to lift me instead of getting me the wheelchair.”

She claimed she wrote to the airline on reaching Bangkok, but did not get a satisfactory response. On her way back to India on August 25, she was once again asked to pay for the second wheelchair. “The second time I was asked to pay, I refused. It was totally shocking that despite the earlier assurance and my subsequent complaint, they still expected me to pay. The ground staff was rude and unhelpful even on the return journey and had to borrow a wheelchair from another airline to help me get off the aircraft, because I absolutely refused to let them carry me.

What if they’d have dropped me or there had been an accident? I am appalled at the treatment meted out to me. What really stunned me was that after everything the ground staff actually want a tip!”

Annoyed and angry over the treatment, she questioned the airline’s claims of being sensitive to differently-abled persons.

“While I was stranded in the aircraft, I noticed the staff paying attention to small details, like counting soft drinks can. But it didn’t occur to them to ensure that there are appropriate wheelchairs for those who need them. World over there are facilities that make travel and commuting easy for differently-abled persons, but we still have a long way to go in India. We compromise at every step, the least we can expect is some cooperation,” she said.

IndiGo airlines was contacted for response, but had not responded till the time of going to press.


Source: The Hindu 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Delta Flight fails to give reasonable accommodation & made passenger crawl to his seat

Baraka Kanaan had to make the humiliating crawl two times despite assurances in advance from the airline ‘that he would be received and given reasonable accommodation for his disability.’

By Nina Golgowski / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Baraka Kanaan, unable to walk, was made to crawl down two Delta airplane aisles and across the tarmacs after the airline failed to provide him with adequate wheelchair accommodations, his lawsuit claims.

A full-time wheelchair user was forced to crawl off two Delta Airlines flights and across the tarmac after the airline twice failed to provide necessary equipment to help him on and off, according to a shocking lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday.

Baraka Kanaan of Maui, Hawaii, says he had to perform the humiliating crawl to reach his wheelchair two times in July 2012 as Delta employees in Massachusetts and Hawaii helplessly watched "fearful of liability."

The former college professor and current nonprofit head, said the airline had promised adequate wheelchair accommodations but upon time to board and land offered no assistance.

"They gave me an ultimatum. You can find a way off this plane on your own, or you can go back to Maui where you live," he told the Daily News. "And that forced me to crawl, even though I had given them 48 hours' notice and they knew that I was [unable to walk]."

According to his lawsuit, Delta assured him weeks before his flight from the Nantucket Airport "that he would be received and given reasonable accommodation for his disability."

Instead, according to his filing, "in his nicest suit, he crawled hand over hand through the main cabin and down a narrow flight of stairs and across the tarmac to his wheelchair.


“There were a great number of people watching, and the experience caused Mr. Kanaan great physical and emotional suffering."

Reached by the Daily News for comment Delta refused based on pending litigation.

Kanaan is handicapped and unable to walk after a car accident in 2000 left him with severe spinal injuries. He claims his injuries were further inflamed during his crawl that came just days before he was to undergo a spinal fusion surgery.

Adding insult to injury, he says: "there was an unused lift only a couple hundred feet from where we sat. JetBlue's lift was not being used. It could have easily been used on that plane."

According to the Air Carrier Access Act, Airports and carriers of 31 or more passengers are required to "provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts, or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available."

After successfully dragging himself off his first flight, Kanaan promptly filed a complaint with Delta.


The airline offered him a $100 voucher for his trouble and assured him it would not happen again with his return trip scheduled for two days later on July 29.

To his complete horror, it did.

Upon his arrival he was informed that they did not have the necessary safety equipment to board him but offered "a piece of cardboard to put down so that his clothes wouldn't get dirty," according to his complaint.

"Thus, Mr. Kanaan was again forced to crawl across the tarmac, up the stairs of the aircraft, down the aisle, and hoist himself into his seat on the aircraft, which was a physically painful experience for Mr. Kanaan. In the process he felt his spine twist and pull in awkward manners."

Delta allegedly then offered him 40,000 SkyMiles after this second horrific flight which, suffice to say, Kanaan refused explaining he’d never want to fly with them again.

"It's not right what they're doing," he said. "For the last year I've been mistreated by Delta, just continuously belittling my situation.


"And first they issued a formal apology letter to share with you, just acknowledging every point of their fault. ‘We did this, we did that, we did this, we're sorry, we're very sorry,' and then they came back and said, 'you know it's not our fault. We're not going to do anything about this.'"

In a four-minute video posted to his Facebook page Saturday, Kanaan implored the public to not only boycott Delta, but contact them, the American Civil Liberties Union and their local Disability Rights Center to help end the airline’s "abhorrent" and "shocking” behavior.

“Don't do it for me, do it for the over 5,000 people last year who had complained about Delta mistreatment,” he wrote with his video.

"I just think that there must be something that we can do," he said. Though Kanaan’s allegations are shocking, it is far from the first time Delta has been accused of forcing passengers to crawl off their plane.

In 2008 another Delta passenger performed the same humiliating crawl off two flights, 53-year-old Florida retiree Julianna Dombrowski told Gadling.com.

Dombrowski did not file a legal complaint against the airline telling the news site that though the act was “disgraceful,” she was not sure if Delta or the airports were to blame.

Kanaan is seeking compensatory, treble and punitive damages for violations of the Air Carrier Access Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, negligence, emotional distress and discrimination. 

(Video on facebook) 


Source: NYDailyNews

Children with disabilities refused seats in UK Train for they may "spoil" ambience

Dear Colleagues,

This is still happening and happening in societies considered to be advanced! I have serious doubts about their "advancement" if they have no awareness on simple issues of diversity as this one. I hope what the Train Manager said or did was her individual reaction and none of the passengers travelling in the first class had any role in this! 

The acceptance for diversity or say persons with certain disabilities continues to be abysmally low in so called "advanced societies" as well! This is troublesome and calls for urgent measure for raising awareness. 

Tuesday 13 Aug 2013 6:15 pm

Special needs children as young as four were told to sit on the floor of a train rather than in empty first-class seats because they would ‘spoil’ the ambiance of the carriage.

The youngsters from the Stage Right Theater Group, based in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, were on their way back from a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe festival when they found standard class packed to the brim, meaning they had to sit outside the toilets.

When volunteers asked the train manager if they could move to the near-empty carriage of the Cross Country train, they were given short shrift and reportedly told the first-class passengers ‘do not need the likes of your children spoiling their journey’.

Even though other families paying the standard fare were allowed into the more expensive section, the female manager would not be swayed.

Special needs kids told they would 'spoil' journeys of first class passengers
First-class snub: The children were denied a spot in first class despite other 
standard-fare payers being allowed to move (Picture: PA/File) 
After repeated polite requests to let them move, she is also said to have told the charity workers: ‘If you don’t stop talking to me, I will throw you all off. Then how will you get back to Motherwell?’

Rebekah Aitken, 25, who runs the group at Carluke Leisure Centre every Sunday, was clearly angered by the treatment of her pupils, aged four to 11, on the service from Edinburgh Waverley.

She told the Daily Record: ‘We were discriminated against because of the disabled kids we had with us.

‘I’m embarrassed for the kids as they were paraded in front of the passengers and made to feel like an inconvenience.

‘The train manager thought they weren't of the standard to be allowed to sit in the business carriage but she moved other kids and parents, who had paid the same train fare, into those seats.’

Ms Aitken’s Stage Right cohort, Elaine Berry, was equally miffed by their snub, saying: ‘Their memories of what had been a brilliant day are now of her and their train journey home.’

However a spokesman for the Arriva-owned CrossCountry apologized for the children’s mistreatment, adding that it would investigate the incident.

He said: ‘We are sorry to learn of the circumstances of the Stage Right Theater School on their recent journey.

‘We expect our staff to be polite and helpful at all times and it is extremely disappointing if their behaviour was as described. We will investigate the circumstances as a matter of urgency and will be in touch with them as soon as this is completed.

‘We would like to offer our sincere apologies to Rebekah, Elaine and all the children for the poor quality of their journey back to Motherwell.’

The children’s plight was met with disgust by campaigners, with one going by the name of Skippy McCarthy beginning a change.org petition to Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, to investigate the discrimination.

He called CrossCountry’s response a ‘worthless apology’ that suggests ‘as time passes, nothing will be done’.

He added: ‘These children lost a day of their lives through the behaviour of an employee of this rail company but, more importantly were shown that they count for nothing.

‘Not only should they be reimbursed for all expenses incurred on that day but they should receive free annual business travel passes for a minimum of 12 months on all Scottish transport facilities.

‘As to who pays for this, they have already paid enough, having been subjected to this humiliating and belittling experience.’

Source:  metro.co.uk

Friday, August 2, 2013

New York City adopts "more active" symbol of Access

Moving forward from a static and ubiquitous "handicapped" symbol - a blue and white logo of a person leaning back in a wheelchair known as the international symbol of access , which  has been under fire from disability activists who feel the logo paints disabled people as passive - the New York City has adopted a new international symbol of access. 

The Old Symbol

International Sign of Access adopted by ISO is
considered as passive by disability activists
The old symbol of access was approved by the International Standards Organization (ISO), and the symbol is generally placed wherever access has been improved for people with disability issues. It was first designed by Susanne Koefoed in 1968 - although she didn't give the symbol a head. That was added a while later by Karl Montan.

The Accessible Icon Project  

The project has been pushing for an update to the symbol, one that is more modern, and that depicts a more active figure. According to the group, the original design focused too much on the wheelchair, rather than the person who's sitting in it, and depicts that person as stiff and passive.

They say this is representative of the treatment that many people with disabilities have faced. "People with disabilities have a long history of being spoken for, of being rendered passive in decisions about their lives," expresses the the group on its website.

"The old icon, while a milestone in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) history, displays that passivity: its arms and legs are drawn like mechanical parts, its posture is unnaturally erect, and its entire look is one that make the chair, not the person, important and visible." it says further. It wants to introduce a new design, one that is active and engaged, with a focus on mobility and movement, but still in line with other ISO-approved pictograms.

The new Icon of access

The new design has been created by designer Sara Hendren, who has engaged in a little guerrilla marketing over the years, including illegally stickering over the original design with this new one.
In the beginning of their project, Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney stuck their new design over existing handicapped signs around Boston.
In the beginning of their project, Sara Hendren &
Brian Glenney stuck their new design over existing
handicapped signs   around Boston 
in a little guerrilla
marketting [photo credits Darcy Hildreth - npr.org]

Hendren's new design looks more like a person wheeling him or herself independently. Hendren says the real goal of the campaign isn't just to replace the existing symbol with her new design - it's to get people thinking.

There's a much bigger question to ask about who is abled and who is disabled and what we think about dependence and need,'' she said. "I'm just trying to start a discussion where we reevaluate our assumptions and our attitudes.'

The new logo is a more active logo designed by activists at Gordon College in eastern Massachusetts. The NYC will start displaying the logo all over the city starting this summer.

 "It's such a forward-moving thing," said Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York mayor's Office for People With Disabilities.

The movement initially started when the group behind the new logo started placing its stickers over old handicapped signs around the Gordon College campus, and eventually stickers of the final design were distributed throughout nearby Boston. While getting the logo around has largely been a "stealth operation" up to this point, visibility from the biggest city in the country should help it gain more traction. 

That will make a splash," said Wayne Sailor, co-founder of disabled advocacy groupTASH and professor of special education at the University of Kansas. "I predict it will be a real trendsetter."
New Sign of Access that more "active"

Icon Graphic Elements of New Access Sign

1 - Head Position
Head is forward to indicate the forward motion of the person through space. Here the person is the "driver" or decision maker about her mobility.

2 - Arm Angle 
Arm is pointing backward to suggest the dynamic mobility of a chair user, regardless of whether or not she uses her arms. Depicting the body in motion represents the symbolically active status of navigating the world.

3 - Wheel Cutouts 
By including white angled knockouts the symbol presents the wheel as being in motion. These knockouts also work for creating stencils used in spray paint application of the icon. Having just one version of the logo keeps things more consistent and allows viewers to more clearly understand intended message.

4 - Limb Rendition
The human depiction in this icon is consistent with other body representations found in the ISO 7001 - DOT Pictograms. Using a different portrayal of the human body would clash with these established and widely used icons and could lead to confusion.

5 - Leg Position 
The leg has been moved forward to allow for more space between it and the wheel which allows for better readability and cleaner application of icon as a stencil.

Is this ADA Compliant?

The short answer is yes. Federal and state officials have determined that slight variations on the historical International Symbol of Accessibility are generally permissible as long as the symbol clearly displays a wheelchair and signifies accessibility.

Forward thinking companies such as The TJX Companies, have utilized another progressive symbol by the graphic designer Brendan Murphy. We are grateful that companies like Talbots have embraced the Accessible Icon as well.

Different states have different regulations concerning the size, color, and placement of the symbol. For instance, in Massachusetts, accessible parking spots must be identified by a vertical parking sign, but symbols on the ground are not required. We recommend that you review state and local regulations before painting the Accessible Icon on parking spots or placing the sticker on signs.

Indian Initiatives

Enabling Unit at UCMS, New Delhi India under 
the active advocacy of Dr. Satendra Singh have 
already adopted this logo (photoCredits UCMS)
Dr. Satendra Singh of University College of Medical Science (University of Delhi & Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi, India has not only promoted this sign in his college but also written to the Chief Commissioner Disabilities, Govt. of India  to consider revising the current ISA with the new one for India which portrays dynamism and focuses on person rather disability.

He further stressed in his representation that these small steps are highly significant as how Persons with disabilities are represented in society. 

Sources: The Verge; LaughingSquid;  npr; Accessible Icon Project; Enabling Unit;

Read related post: New Handicapped Sign rolls in to New York City

Monday, July 29, 2013

CJ Poonam fights for disabled friendly railway stations

Thanks to Aarth Aastha and CNN IBN for giving opportunities to unheard voices like Poonam who are equally affected by the inaccessibility of Indian Railways - the most popular and preferred mode of public transportation by land.

Its a long time that demands have been made by the people - both celebreties and crusaders on ground asking the railways to champion the cause of disability and accessibility. Indian Railways, however, has been very slow in even reacting to them...I am not talking about responding and resolving them.

Mired by bribery controversies, the rail ministry seems not very serious in making its services accessible to all! This Ministry has been like a cake that is most sought after by political parties who support the government for reasons so obvious and by the leaders who get more opportunities of personal gain rather than work in the larger interest of nation by positioning Indian Railways as the best accessible inter-city pubic transportation on land.

Hope the things will change soon with more awareness around this subject and awakening in the citizenry about their rights.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Air India discriminates with Faisal Nawaz - an engineer with disabilities

Faisal Nawaz, a 30-year-old engineer at  Indian Institute of Astrophysics Bangalore and a disability activist who writes Ability Khabarnama  has accused the only government airliner - Air India of discrimination after the airline repeatedly ordered him to cancel his booking several times.

Faisal, lives with a medical condition termed Kypho Scoliosis and Polio since childhood. In April 2013 he booked a return flight from Bangalore to New Delhi.

Faisal’s doctors advised him to make use of BiPAP equipment and oxygen support as he is likely to experience respiratory problems in a pressurized cabin. The BiPAP machine is a relatively small device that pushes oxygen into the lungs and holds them inflated.

Air India asks passengers with special requirements to complete all details of MEDIF (Medical Information Form). Faisal, who made his booking online, followed the airline procedure to the letter.

"I sent Air India reservation centres the Medical Information Form, as well as my doctors' certificates and ticket details," the man said.

Two days before his departure date Air India’s medical team called Faisal. “They ordered me to send them the MEDIF again and to reschedule my flight as I would not be allowed to travel.”

Faisal’s ordeal was far from over. “Few days away from my rescheduled departure Air India medical team called me again,” the unlucky engineer recalls. “This time they told me one of the documents was not readable and I had to show up in person to the Air India office to be certified as fit to fly by and Air India doctor.” Needless to say, Faisal was once again ordered to reschedule his flight as he would not be allowed to board the aircraft.

At the third attempt Faisal was finally cleared to fly. However, the young man was told he would have to fill in and submit a new MEDIF prior to his return flight.

Following instructions, Faisal sent a new MEDIF to Air India’s medical team two weeks before his return flight. Two days before his return flight the man received a call from Air India who ordered him to once again reschedule his flights. “This time I was told my two week’s old MEDIF was too old, and I had to go in person to see an Air India doctor or I would not be allowed to fly.”

Faisal showed up at Air India’s medical team in Delhi and was declared fit to fly. Once declared fit to fly, passengers are “not required to provide the same information again and again” according to India’s Civil Aviation Requirements for transport of passengers with disabilities.

However, Air India seems to have a different opinion. "In case of respiratory conditions, Air India must ensure the aircraft has enough oxygen cylinders on board,” a spokesperson for Air India said.

Air India requires passengers with disabilities to notify the airline of their special requirements. However, the airline systematically fails to forward the information to airports outside the Republic of India, causing its most vulnerable passengers unnecessary humiliation and stressful wait for assistance.

Source: Reduced Mobility Rights

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Private Airliners do not entertain passengers with disabilities in Karachi

Dear Colleagues,

The private airliners in Karachi - Shaheen Air and Airblue, do not entertain travellers with disabilities particularly those using wheelchairs. They also  don’t provide attendants and don’t allow wheelchairs inside the planes. Their spokesperson reveals, "We will have to load bridges to transport people requiring wheelchair access to planes and we don’t have them in Islamabad or Peshawar, and the ones in Karachi are always booked.”

Here is the detailed coverage published in The Express Tribune.

Rights of the disabled?: Private airlines fail to offer wheelchair access

It was not the usual mad rush of passengers or the onslaught of porters that made Naveeduddin Khan anxious when he was about to board a train to Multan earlier this year. He was worried of how he was going to make it to his seat.

As the situation unfolded, some men lifted him off the platform and put him on the train. Once inside, he crawled on his elbows, bruising his arms and gathering dirt and greasy lubricant, while making his way to the seat. Getting on-board this way was humiliating – the story of all handicapped passengers travelling via trains.

But this episode was nothing compared to the embarrassment he endured while trying to book a flight on a private airline. “They don’t sell tickets to physically-challenged people,” he said angrily. “I had to cancel my family vacations to Islamabad as the airlines would not assist me.”

Khan has a leg deformity due to polio disease. For within city commute, he drives his especially modified three-wheeler automatic car but when it comes to travelling to other cities, he finds himself with limited options as two private airlines in the country – Shaheen Air and Airblue – do not entertain people requiring wheelchair access.

“Sorry, we don’t provide attendants and don’t allow wheelchairs inside the planes,” claimed a ticket-reservation operator at Shaheen Air. “Only those who can walk are permitted to travel.”

The attitude is no different at Airblue. “Handicapped persons would have to get their own attendants to carry them and climb up the stairs to the plane,” said an Airblue official. Wheelchairs cannot be taken to the plane as “there is no space for it,” he added.

Aviation rules
Shaheen Air has no provisions for disabled persons under the conditions of carriage. However, the conditions do state that the carrier has the right to refuse passengers requiring special assistance.
“We will have to load bridges to transport people requiring wheelchair access to planes,” a spokesperson for Airblue, Raheel Ahmed, said. “We don’t have them in Islamabad or Peshawar, and the ones in Karachi are always booked.”

Ahmed explains the risk involved in transporting such passengers. “Even if we provide a porter to carry the disabled persons through stairs, a slip from the porter could cost the airline a lot of money.”

Airblue’s spokesperson says that only the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has an ambulift – a crane to lift wheelchairs. “If we rent it from them, we will be charged in dollars.”

Expressing regret over such a problem, he said that the airline did take special children for the Paralympics last year but they have limitations. “Airblue has an all-female crew. Even if we take such passengers, who would help them use the bathroom?”

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Authority’s spokesperson Mehmood Hussain said that it depended on the policy of the airlines of whether or not to assist such travellers. PIA complies with the rules of the US Department of Transportation on the travel of disabled persons. Under 14 CFR part-382 of the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines may not refuse transportation to people with disabilities. PIA’s spokesperson Mashood Tajwar confirmed that their attendants made sure that the handicapped persons were allowed on-board.

Violation of human rights?
Khan, who also runs the Disabled Welfare Association, has taken the matter to the Human Rights Commission (HRCP) of Pakistan. “Action should be taken against these airlines. Why are we being discriminated against? They should shutdown their operations if they cannot facilitate us.” HRCP coordinator in Sindh, Syed Shamsuddin, has written letters to both airlines, urging them to rectify their unfair policies.