Friday, March 22, 2013

Air India at receiving end for mishandling needs of disabled passenger


Dear Colleagues, 

Ever since the Air India outsourced the entire operation at the Terminal 3, Delhi Airport to an external agency, there are frequent reports of mistreatment meted out to passengers with disabilities. Earlier, there were fewer complaints when Air India staff received the passengers with special needs and handled the airport operations. 

While the DGCA's CAR is enforceable also on the agency to which the work is outsourced when it comes to passenger's amenities more so mandatory requirements to be met regarding rights of persons with disabilities during their carriage by air. In this case, Air India cannot escape the blame for the vicarious liability for it is the solemn duty of the national carrier to ensure that the rights of the passengers with disabilities are respected and enforced as per the DGCA's CAR on the carriage of persons with disabilities and person with reduced mobility by Air.

This time thee incident happened with none other than Mr. Javed Abidi of the NCPEDP fame who currently is also serving as the Chair- Disabled People's International (DPI). Javed returned to Delhi from Tokyo on Wednesday evening on Air India Flight AI-307 along with a companion after a 10 hours 40 minutes long flight.  He had been assured by the cabin crew before they landed that a message had been sent to the Delhi ground staff to ensure that his wheelchair was brought to the aircraft.

While all the passengers disembarked at Delhi, Javed had to wait an additional one hour inside the aircraft as the airline sent his wheelchair to the baggage pick-up area inside the terminal and which had to be retrieved. As an internationally established rule, if a person with disability is travelling with his or her wheelchair, it should be brought to the aircraft for the passenger to exit on the same wheelchair for wheelchairs are highly customized mobility equipments almost like a part of the body and cannot be just replaced by any ordinary wheelchair.

The worst part was that while Javed and his companion were still on board the flight, the cleaning staff began their operation disregarding his very presence in the aircraft. This shows an ugly face of the aviation sector and their attitude to disability and the dire need of training and sensitization not only the airline and aerodrome staff but also the operators/ agencies who are increasingly engaged for outsourcing the passenger handling job by the national carrier.

It is shocking for all of us to see that even the regulator- the DGCA continues to treat such lapses with relative ease and indifference which only reinforce the lackadaisical attitude of the airliners and aerodrome operators. It’s high time that the existing penal provisions are forcefully used against the defaulting agencies and hit them hard where it pinches most – the financial penalties. 


Here are the news coverage by Mail Online India & Times of India.

Coverage in Mail Online India

WHIPLASH: The ugly face of the aviation sector revealed in attitudes to disability
By SUHAS MUNSHI

PUBLISHED: 22:12 GMT, 21 March 2013 | UPDATED: 22:12 GMT, 21 March 2013

It is pathetic that people with disabilities continue to be ill-treated and humiliated by airlines in this country. 
From the end of a ten hour 40 minute flight of IC 307 when all the passengers disembarked the planed, Javed Abidi must have spent each moment in the hour long wait for his wheelchair realising how dependent on the hospitality of others he really was, till the chair finally showed up at the doors. 

Half of that time was spent in negotiations of how Abidi could instead opt to be seated in the standard service wheelchair, while his custom designed wheelchair was being searched for, only to be humiliatingly shifted once again to his own chair. 

He may have hardened to condescension over time but being parcelled around, no self-respecting man will suffer. And Javed Abidi is not self-pitying or resigned to his fate. He happens to be the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), one of India's most respected organisations keeping vigil over the rights of the disabled. 

Nor is Abidi a first time victim to such indignity. His career as an advocate of the disabled's rights began after bearing insults by media companies who denied him opportunity.He is also just one among many such people who have been at the receiving end of Indian aviation sector's disgraceful attention.

Last year Jeeja Ghosh, a 43 year old woman with cerebral palsy, reached Kolkata to catch a Spice- Jet flight to Goa only to be offloaded from the plane for her condition. In May 2011, Kingfisher Airline deplaned a blind woman from a Mumbai-Goa flight.  And this year Tony Kurian, 22, a visually impaired student was denied tickets by Indigo.

The only constant in all these cases is not just the offence but the relative ease and indifference with which it is treated. And nothing short of stringent punishment is likely to rid the aviation sector of this insensitive attitude. Read more:  Daily Mail


Coverage in Times of India

21 March 2013, NEW DELHI: It was a 10 hour and 40 minute long flight from Tokyo to Delhi and JavedAbidi, the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and a paraplegic, was looking forward to getting back home. However, Abidi had to wait an additional one hour inside the aircraft as the airline sent his wheelchair to the baggage pick-up area inside the terminal and had to have it retrieved.

"As an internationally established rule, if a disabled person is travelling with his or her wheelchair, it should be brought to the aircraft for the passenger to exit on that. I make it a practice to not only inform the airline at the departing station but also before we are to land that I will need my wheelchair. Despite taking all such precautions even this time, Air India sent my wheelchair to the conveyor belt and I was made to wait an hour for it," said Abidi.

Abidi had returned to Delhi from Tokyo on Wednesday evening on Air India flight AI-307 along with a companion and had been assured by the cabin crew before they landed that a message had been sent to the Delhi ground staff to ensure that his wheelchair was brought to the aircraft.

"For 30 minutes the crew tried to convince me to use their wheel chair. However, there is very little understanding that a wheelchair is not just any wheelchair. For instance, mine has been customized to suit my needs and body type. I would also be required to change chairs again had I used the airline's wheelchair. Anywhere else the airline could have been sued for this," said Abidi.

He also said that in clear violation of DGCA rules, the cleaning staff was permitted on the aircraft even as he and his companion were on board. Air India officials refused to comment on the issue.

Read at source: Times of India


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