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.

Monday, July 22, 2013

DGCA draft guidelines aim at easing air travel for disabled passengers

DGCA draft guidelines aim at easing air travel for disabled passengers

Priyal Dave : Mumbai, Sun Jul 21 2013, 02:49 hrs

To cut down multiple medical clearances required by disabled passengers during air travel, Director General of Civil Aviation, in its new Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), has suggested that airlines issue Frequent Travellers Medical Card (FREMEC). The card will be acceptable across airlines. DGCA has invited suggestions on CAR from the public by July 31.

The draft guidelines include appointment of a nodal and an appellate authority for grievance redressal, involvement of travel agents to ascertain needs of disabled passengers at the time of booking and standardisation of training of airline, airport and security staff.

The draft, however, is silent about the procedure of security check for disabled passengers. "It also does not have clear guidelines on the prosthetic devices, rendering this a grey area," said Suranjana Ghosh, a Mumbai-based media professional. The 37-year-old said on July 11, CISF personnel at Mumbai Airport asked her to remove her prosthesis completely, a demand that she found humiliating.

The draft, however, states that airport operator will be responsible for training security staff at the airport. It also mandates that airlines and operators sensitise their staff regarding disabled persons. The content and duration of the programme has to be in accordance with the guidelines issued by Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Operators are also required to provide specific training for personnel who directly assist such passengers.

To standardise the format of collecting information, airlines and travel agents will be required to provide Medical Information Form or Incapacitated Passenger Handling Advice.

Biji Eapan, national president of IATA Agents' Association of India, welcomed the involvement of travel agents in collecting information about disabled persons. "Internationally, travel agents are considered as consultants who are professionally trained to guide passengers in documentation. They should be qualified to also help disabled passengers."

However, Iqbal Mulla, president Travel Agents Association of India, said, "DGCA places responsibility on travel agents but does not talk about extra remuneration for providing complementary services."

As per the draft, in case airlines refuse to carry disabled passengers, they have specify in writing the reason for doing so.

It also states new or refurbished aircraft should be fitted with special equipment to cater to needs of disabled passengers. Passengers are required to use wheelchairs as per specifications by Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), UK, if they insist on using their own wheelchairs inside airport. They are expected to notify their travel needs at least 48 hours prior to the flight. However, in case of emergency, airlines are expected to cooperate with such passengers.

Airlines are required to provide on-board aisle wheelchairs, conforming to DPTAC, for embarkation and disembarkation.

Friday, July 19, 2013

In the name of security, disabled passengers harrassed at airports by Indian security forces

Why must Indian security staff humiliate people with disabilities?

Imagine buying a ticket to go on holiday and then, just as you’re about to board the plane, being insulted by the pilot who threatens to kick you off the flight. Or rushing to the airport to catch a flight and then being stopped at security check and told to strip. Or being forced off the plane because the airline doesn’t like the look of you. These aren’t the experiences of people suspected of terrorist activities or criminals, but of regular people who have been victimised because they have physical disabilities. They’re subjected to insensitivity, humiliation and abuse because they use crutches or a wheelchair or an artificial limb.

“‘Stay at home if you have a disability,’ that’s what we as Indians grow up thinking and telling others,” said Suranjana Ghosh Aikara, who works for Network 18 and has been using a prosthesis, or artificial limb, for years because one of her legs was amputated to treat a form of bone cancer. After silently suffering humiliation at Indian airports because of her prosthesis, Ghosh has decided to now speak out. “I don’t want people to judge me by my disability,” said Aikara. “I take pride in the fact that I’ve lived my life like a regular person in every way and no one can tell by looking at me that I have any disability.”

Aikara’s artificial leg, which she describes as her “lifeline”, is a sophisticated piece of equipment. “It looks a lot like my own leg from the outside,” described Aikara. Taking the prosthesis off is painstaking, both physically and emotionally. Without it, Aikara’s leg is a stump. “That is me at my most vulnerable,” said Aikara. “It’s worse than being naked.” Airport security has repeatedly reduced her to this vulnerable, exposed state in the name of security. On more than one occasion, in supposedly world-class airport terminals like New Delhi’s T3, Aikara has faced insensitive handling from airport authorities. Both junior and senior officers have ignored her disability certificate — according to those who have harassed Aikara, anyone can get such a certificate — forced her to strip, subjected her to offensive remarks, removed her prosthesis.

All this was done in the name of security. In actual fact, what they should have done is frisked her leg and done an Explosive Trace Detector scanner test, which does not require the subject to do anything more than stand still, with all their clothes and prosthesis on.

In 2007, NGO activist Rajiv Rajan, a cerebral palsy patient, was not allowed to board a private airline. Despite his case becoming high profile and getting a fair degree of exposure, the treatment of people with disabilities has not improved much since. Jeeja Ghosh suffered similar treatment in 2012 and now, more and more people are speaking out about the treatment of airport security personnel, who — empowered by their uniforms — think nothing of intimidating and humiliating travellers with disabilities.

Earlier this year, Rajesh Bhatia faced similar treatment when he flying out of New Delhi. Bhatia lost his right leg in an accident 24 years ago. In his case too, the airport staff ignored his disability certificate and forced him to remove his trousers and take off his artificial limb, all the while asking him humiliating questions. An enraged Bhatia began a campaign on and Facebook demanding airport and airline staff be better educated so that they treat physically-challenged travellers with respect and sensitivity. He appeared on Headlines Today in March, determined to raise awareness for his cause. “I have my rights and they are in no way less than the rights of any normal citizen,” he said succinctly.

Bhatia’s online campaign isn’t the first attempt to change the way systems work at airports. For the past few years, spearheaded by Rahul Cherian (who recently passed away), Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy has been working to force the Ministry of Civil Aviation to take the rights of physically-challenged travellers seriously. In the past, Inclusive Planet has made a submission on behalf of 20 NGOs on the aspects that needed to be covered in the new Civil Aviation Policy to address the needs of persons with disabilities. Inclusive Planet was also part of a committee that submitted a report to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on existing regulations on air travel for persons with disabilities.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, according to Amba Salelkar, who works with Inclusive Planet. “The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 does have regulations in place dealing with accessibility of transport, roads and the built environment but the focus is on physical access, and not issues which come up beyond this,” said Salelkar. “A person with a disability may be able to get on a flight, but there are so many other issues relating to comfort, and in Suranjana’s case, dignity, that need to be taken care of.” Salelkar also pointed out that while we have laws providing for basic rights for people with disabilities, they aren’t adequate. “There is no recourse to discrimination or undignified practices, but happily under the draft amendments to the Mental Health Act (to some extent) and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, these issues are being redressed,” she said.

The only way the situation will improve for people with disabilities is education. The central problem is that airport staff have little to no exposure to either people with disabilities or a modern prosthesis. “We don’t talk about disability or what’s out there to help those who have it,” said Aikara. “My prosthesis costs Rs 14 lakhs.

It’s more expensive than a lot of the cars on the road and it’s being manhandled. I can bet not one of the officers who have the responsibility of clearing me for security have ever seen anything like it.”

“Training of security is very important. I cannot emphasize this enough,” concurs Salelkar. “They need to know the individual problems faced by persons with different disabilities, and how to address the same. And persons with disabilities are willing and ready to help out in training, we have plenty of resource persons willing to contribute.”

At present, despite the outrage and efforts, security personnel remain woefully unaware and when backed into a corner, they have one excuse that trumps every complaint: national security. However, when the rest of the world is able to run airports in which people with disabilities are not humiliated, why can’t India can’t do the same? Why must the mission to uphold national security — regardless of how successful this mission may be — rob citizens of their dignity?

Jet Airways charges disabled persons for Wheelchair & Ambulift on middle eastern airports

Jet Airways Takes Discrimination Against Disabled Passengers To A Whole New Level  

Not new to controversy, India’s second largest airline Jet Airways is facing allegations of discriminating against passengers with disabilities.

Founded in 1993 by Indian billionaire businessman Naresh Goyal, Jet Airways operates a fleet of 100 aircraft to domestic and international destination.

Controversy and Jet Airways seem to be inseparable. One of the airline’s security agents at London Heathrow airport, Asmin Tariq, was arrested after being found implicated in the foiled terror plot of 10 August 2006 transatlantic airliners in mid-air. 

American authorities delayed Jet Airways clearance to fly to the U.S. for over two years due to concerns, one of which focusing on the airline’s ownership structure and alleged links to organised crime in India.

In February 2012 the airline was hit by a serious disability discrimination complaint. Miss Anjlee Agarwal, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, complained of discriminatory harassment at the hands of Jet Airways personnel. The disabled passenger was first forced to sign a waiver of liability. On a second leg of her flight she was manhandled by untrained personnel despite an aisle chair being available.

On 15 July, while routinely reviewing airlines procedures for passengers with disabilities, Reduced Mobility Rights Jet Airways WheelChair Chargesuncovered something out of the ordinary with JetAirways services for passengers with reduced mobility.

The airline charges passengers with disabilities flying from some Middle Eastern airports up to 53 US Dollars to provide wheelchair services. Charges can be as high as 267 US Dollars for passengers with severe reduced mobility who need an ambulift to board the aircraft. 

Jet Airways charges passengers with disabilities departing from the following airports: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah airport in the United Arab Emirates; Riyadh and Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia; Muscat airport in the Sultanate of Oman; Bahrain international airport.  

“The wheelchair assistance charge introduced applies only for departures from some Gulf destinations (SHJ/AUH/DXB/RUH/JED/MCT/BAH)”, a Jet Airways spokesperson said “Before introducing this policy, Jet Airways conducted research and benchmarked the charge against other carriers. The charge for wheelchair assistance covers the cost Jet incurs from its ground handlers. Jet Airways’ policy is in line with other carriers operating in the respective regions. The policy does not apply for wheelchair passengers arriving or leaving India, Newark, London Heathrow or Brussels, where passengers are not charged.”

In compliance with anti-discrimination legislation wheelchair assistance is free of charge at European, Indian and US airports, including those mentioned by Jet Airways.

Jet Airways WheelChair Charges
Reduced Mobility Rights conducted its own research with other airlines departing from Bahrain International airport, where Jet Airways wheelchair charges are the highest ($53).

“Wheelchair assistance at the airport is complimentary for Gulf Air customers,” Bahrain’s national carrier customer service told us. “We provide complimentary wheelchair service for all British Airways customers,” a spokesperson for the largest British Legacy carrier said.

“In order not to violate the civil rights of passengers with disabilities, for a barrier free environment, no charges will be levied for the use of wheelchairs at all airports for passengers travelling on Air India in any class,” is the statement of Jet Airways direct competitor, Air India.

Our findings contradict Jet Airways statement according to which the airline’s policy is in line with other carriers operating in the respective regions.

Quite clearly Jet Airways is ripping off people with reduced mobility by imposing hefty charges on services they cannot do without because of their disability.

Reduced Mobility Rights is submitting its findings to India’s General Directorate of Civil Aviation, hoping authorities will step up and order Jet Airways immediately cease discriminating against passengers with disabilities flying from the above airports. 

Source: Reduced Mobility Rights

Friday, July 5, 2013

Different Strokes: We can also think; won't you please listen to what...

Dear Colleagues,

Here is a real life experience coming from horse's mouth. Dr. V.S. Sunder, a well known mathematics Professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai who is also a wheelchair user due to a neurological condition called multiple sclerosis has written the following piece...

Different Strokes: We can also think; won't you please listen to what...: Today was another travel day when I would encounter the airlines and be at the mercy of their (in) sensitivity. It is funny how pe.....................

When we travel with my battery-operated wheel-chair, that's a whole circus. We usually get to the airport something like 75 minutes before a domestic flight, and go to the little ticketing-type window which airlines have, that can be accessed before entering the airport. It is always the same: I start explaining to the person behind the window that I will need to check in my wheelchair and then use one of the airline's wheelchairs; the person says `just wait here, while we arrange for somebody to bring a wheelchair'; and we will have to go back and forth saying the same thing a few times before I finally get it across that it would be more time-efficient for someone to come with the wheelchair to the place where check-in baggage is scanned. When we get near the baggage scanning place, I remove the joy stick that operates the controls of the chair, while my wife unzips the suitcase and puts the joy stick in, after which I am seated in the airline's wheelchair, and that is when I am ready for battle.

After that, if I don't object specifically, the universal practice is for the attendant to park the wheel-chair out of the way and not even facing or in hearing distance of the subsequent negotiations which they have whisked my wife away for, `to speak on my behalf'. (She will be the first person to admit that I can speak perfectly well on my behalf!) This is when I know the `authorities' would make a song-and-dance about the battery of my wheel-chair being a hazard. Today, I specifically asked to be taken to where the discussion was going on. The official was trying to say that the rules demanded that they should be able to open up and see the `innards' of the battery, and I came back with `I'm sorry but you don't know the rules! I've taken this wheelchair all over the world and India as well. This is a dry cell battery, and these have been explicitly stated as being admissible'. And when they know you know what you are talking about, they back off like they are doing you a favour.

My basic grumbling point, and the reason for this post is to ask why the wheelchair passenger is always kept in a corner when their able-bodied companions are asked to do the negotiating – as if this lump of baggage cannot possibly have anything intelligent to contribute. Even if we can't walk, we can think, and (most) often much more logically and clearly than those who can walk better than us.

And I take serious offense at being completely ignored. This morning, in the shining bright new terminal at Chennai airport, after we had finally succeeded in checking our suitcase and my wheelchair in, we were asked to wait at an appointed place where somebody would come to take me when it was time to board the plane. It was about 12 minutes before the announced departure time when somebody came to wheel me in. And when we got to the security check point, my wife was asked to go with `all the others', while I was whisked through the security check, while poor Sita was probably no. 137 in the line she had been sent to. And when I was brought through security check, I was quickly taken away to the departure gate because `it was already boarding time'. My pleas that we wait for Sita, because she didn't even have a cell-phone on which to tell her what had befallen me, were of course completely ignored. Not just that, when we went to the departure gate, notwithstanding my pleas, I was carted off to the plane, with a comforting `she will come in the next coach'. This is the only airport in the world where they have not permitted the companion of the wheelchair passenger to accompany him/her at the time of security check!

Madras airport does another brilliant thing. When I go through security check, my stick is being separately sent through the scanner when I am asked to get off my wheelchair and raise my arms so as to be frisked. Not once has anybody had the decency to listen to my request that if they have to make me stand, will they at least wait for my stick to come through the scanner, so I can hold on to that and stand.

It is the same thing ad nauseum. Nobody listens to you at all, on the basis of the masterly inference that one who is forced to be in a wheelchair cannot possibly have anything intelligent to say, and can hence be safely ignored and treated like an uncomplaining sack of potatoes. My lawyer friend the late Rahul Cherian was advising people in the Aviation business and coming up with sensible suggestions and he was optimistic that measures would be in place, soon, to redress all such complaints. I had given him quite a few of my pet problems and he was going to incorporate them into his final formal recommendation. But the good Lord took him to his bosom all too soon, and I wonder if there is any hope of those ambitions being fulfilled. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Airlines apply different rules on passengers with disabilities traveling to destinations other than North America

Dear Colleagues,

Not all passengers with disabilities seem to have equal rights on the ground even today. Lufthansa flight may give you best service and reasonable accommodation (compliant to ADA) when you are travelling to North America, however, if you are travelling on the same Lufthansa to India, you must be ready for sudden surprises. .. Reason.. Lufthansa remains compliant to the norms of the country it is visiting. Thanks to a weak regulator and a powerful lobby of airliners, the DGCA's CAR seems to have been tweaked to an extent that there are so many "if's" and "but's" inserted in the rules. 

The Indian regulator (the DGCA) as per the recent media reports has just escaped a downgrade by international aviation agencies especially the US Federal Aviatio nAdministration (FAA), on the grounds of strengthening the DGCA - something that remains on paper and is not implemented despite the need for a strong safety watchdog as air traffic here has grown maniforld in past seven years. 

"DGCA has been treated as just a clearing house for lucrative licences and clearances by most aviation ministers in past few years. it was only the threat of being downgraded by US to sub-Sahara African levels in terms of aviation security oversight that led to the government making plans to strengthen it" says the media report quoting sources.

Recently, through a silent notification the DGCA sought to cap the number of disabled passengers travelling on a single flight which is such a folly on the part of the regulator or perhaps the hunger for more money of the powerful guild of airliners who were successful in  pressurrizing the regulator in to it!

In a perfect world, respect for human rights is taken for granted; however, in remote areas of the world this is far from the case. The same legitimate expectation applies to access to aviation for people with disabilities; however, in this case there are even bigger surprises, often bordering outright discrimination. 

Differences in legislation sanctioning the right to access to aviation contribute to create a divide between passengers. Let’s use the following example to best understand the issue.

Passenger A is visually impaired, and is traveling with his guide dog. Passenger B suffers from PTSD and regularly travels with an Emotional support animal.

Both passenger A and B travel with Lufthansa from New York to New Delhi via Frankfurt. However, they purchased separate tickets, as they have yet to decide how long they will spend in Germany.

Lufthansa's requirements for visually impaired passengers and passengers traveling with an emotional support animal from and to the United States.
  1. Traveling with service/assistance animals : If you are bringing a service animal, we recommend that you contact us prior to traveling so that we can make the necessary arrangements. Please be advised that, as a foreign air carrier, Lufthansa is only required to allow dogs on board as a service animal. If you cannot pre-book, any Lufthansa employee will be happy to assist you at the airport.
  2. Emotional support and psychiatric service animals: Lufthansa also welcomes emotional support and psychiatric service dogs. We recommend that you contact us prior to travelling so that we can make the necessary arrangements. If you cannot pre-book, any Lufthansa employee will be happy to assist you at the airport.
Passengers A and B spend a week in Germany, and now decide to continue their journey to New Delhi. However, when they call Lufthansa they will find an unwelcome surprise, as the airline’s rules applying to all destinations other than the United States are far more restrictive.

Lufthansa's requirements for visually impaired passengers and passengers traveling with an emotional support animal  to  destinations other than North America (say India).
  1. Guide dogs and other assistance dogs: You have the option of taking a guide dog or other assistance dog with you free of charge. We recommend that you use a dog harness and muzzle. However, the number of animals allowed in the cabin is limited, so please let us know in good time if you wish to travel with a guide dog or assistance dog. Please also note that in some countries special regulations apply to the entry of animals and we recommend that you find out about the rules in advance.
  2. Therapy or Emotional Support animal (dog)It is also possible to transport a therapy or Emotional Support Animal (dog) (ESA) free of charge in the cabin. You will require confirmation from your doctor that you require an assistance dog. Please note that the dog’s suitability for transport in the aircraft cabin may be checked.

As a result of these differences in the requirements within the same airlines merely on the basis of where you are headed to, passenger A may not be able to travel to India because he did not pre notify the airline and must obtain required paperwork from the Indian embassy in Germany.

Similary Passenger B may not be allowed to travel to India because he is missing his GP’s  (General Practitioner) letter stating he requires an ESA animal to travel by air.

“LH is fully compliant with the rules and regulations of all countries in which it flies. On May 13, 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation amended its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) rules (otherwise known as Part 382) to apply to foreign carriers as well as adding and updating provisions on various PRM topics including ESAN/SVAN,” said a spokesperson for Lufthansa. 

“Part 382 only applies to foreign carriers on flights to/from the U.S. They do not apply on Intra-European flights or flights to other countries, which are governed by Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006. Lufthansa amended its policies regarding the transportation of SVAN and ESAN on flights to/from the U.S. in order to be compliant with Part 382.” clarified Lufthansa spokesperson.

Compliance is the logical explanation. However, the airline, able to comply with U.S. legislation, applies stricter rules on all other routes. Lufthansa’s stance is the rule rather than the exception. 

In fact, the vast majority of airlines flying from and to the United States apply different, often stricter rules on passengers with disabilities traveling to destinations other than North America which is illogical and unreasonable! 

It is high time that we raised the issue with governments and regulators. The airliners guild/  the airline industry must also consider this issue of open and irrational discrimination against persons with disabilities and set examples and best practices by enforcing and extending equal rights to all irrespective of their destinations. 

Source: Reduced Mobility Rights

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Accessible Onboard Toilet- Revolutionary Concept from Airbus

Dear Colleagues,

Accessibility in Airbus - Sounds interesting indeed!  Producing almost half of the world’s commercial airliners, Airbus recently introduced a revolutionary concept that will significantly improve quality of air travel for passengers who need an on board wheelchair to move about the cabin and make use of the on board toilet.

The two toilets, each of a size comparable with those in A320 family of aircraft, become one through a simple process of conversion: two Space-Flex toilets can be converted into one space for persons of reduced mobility, in a similar way to those used in wide-body Airbus aircraft. 

This solution foresees different options to fit the needs of all Airbus customers, even low cost airlines. By selecting additional galleys with different capacity on the right hand side before the aft door, an airline would gain three additional seats. However, without any galley before door four, the gain could be as high as six additional seats. 

This is a forward looking initiative of Airbus and hopefully friends at Boeing and others will follow suit!  Here goes the detailed info.

Airbus Takes Aircraft Accessibility To The Next Level

Space_Flex Lavatory in detail
Modern long haul aircraft are usually equipped with accessible toilets; however, single aisle short haul aircraft do not have such feature, making the use of toilets very difficult.

Our recent visit at the Paris Air Show focused on spotting innovative solutions enhancing aircraft accessibility thus improving in-flight comfort for passengers with reduced mobility.

"I am unable to get to, let alone get in the toilets and so I limit liquid intake. I sometimes use my toilet bottle or leg bag, but neither is ideal," Martyn Sibley, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, recently told us. 

Starting this fall Airbus will begin deliveries of aircraft of the A320 family equipped with the revolutionary Space-Flex lavatory, an innovative solution that will radically improve the in-flight experience for passengers like Martyn. 

To fit the Space-Flex toilet the rear of the aircraft has been reconfigured, with existing lavatories moved to the rear end of the aircraft.  

The two toilets, each of a size comparable with those existing in the A320 family of aircraft, become one through a simple process of conversion: two Space-Flex toilets can be converted into one space for persons of reduced mobility, in a similar way to those used in wide-body Airbus aircraft.    

This solution foresees different options to fit the needs of all Airbus customers, even low cost airlines. By selecting additional galleys with different capacity on the right hand side before the aft door, an airline would gain three additional seats. However, without any galley before door four, the gain could be as high as six additional seats. 

Delivering full accessibility whilst giving the option of adding up to six more paying seats could represent the perfect recipe to entice airlines to purchase new aircraft featuring the Space-Flex lavatory option.

Brazilian airline TAM is the pilot customer for this truly innovative concept. The airline ordered 39 A320 aircraft fitted with Space-Flex lavatories. “Space-Flex maximises the cabin revenue space and therefore gives us more flexibility in our new Airbus A320 Family aircraft,” said José Maluf of TAM Airlines. “In the future we could easily adapt to market demand and improve seat-mile costs by adding six seats without any compromise in comfort.”

About the author 

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni is an expert of airport accessibility, management and support procedures of passengers with special needs and air travel related regulations. He has been a frequent flyer for the past three decades and has several years of experience as travelling partner of a passenger who requires assistance. 

Roberto provides accessibility and access consulting services to airports and airlines. He is a member of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Access To Air Travel Working Group. He is also a member of the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group. Esaag provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance.

Source: Reduced Mobility Rights