Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Activist with Disability Harassed by Security at Hyderabad Airport

At most international airports, for eg. Bangkok, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Seol, etc, flyers with disabilities are scanned along with their wheelchairs/ assistive devices. However, our security forces at the Airports in India continue to ask flyers with disabilities to strip, take off their orthosis/prosthesis in the name of frisking for security threats. 

The activist harassed this time is  none other than a specialist MD doctor at GTB hospital - the largest government hospital in East Delhi. He made all attempts to explain to the rigid security agencies the  difference between artificial limb, prosthesis and orthosis but they did not budge unless they were threatened that in case the flight was missed, the concerned airlines and the security staff would be responsible to organise the travel expenses. And the trick worked as soon the passenger was scanned and certified "Harmless". But not before leaving a bad taste and uncertainty of detainment in the name of security.

Though, the security concerns are not to be undermined, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and DGCA need to put Standard Operating Procedures in place to ensure that such issues are handled with  utmost sensitivity. 

Let there be use of technology with training of security personnel  besides SOPs so that there is no repeat of such sporadic incidences bringing not only bad name to the establishment but also infringing on the dignity, respect and fundamental rights of persons with disabilities.

Times of India

DU professor with disability harassed at Hyderabad airport

TNN | Feb 25, 2014, 06.42 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Yet another disabled passenger was harassed at the airport on Friday. Satendra Singh, who was travelling from Hyderabad to Delhi, was asked by security at Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airport to remove his leg brace during frisking. Singh, who teaches at the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi University, has post-polio residual paralysis and uses a knee-foot-ankle-orthosis (KFAO) also called a caliper or brace, for support. 

The confrontation with security officials — the latest in a string of such encounters between differently-abled passengers and airport officials — lasted about 20 minutes before the officials capitulated. "They wanted me to remove the caliper and run it through the x-ray machine," says Singh, "In my case that's quite difficult as it goes up to the thigh. I would've had to remove my trousers to take the caliper off. It was humiliating. I wanted them to carry out an Explosive Trace Detector (ETD) test and was willing to let them frisk me." 

Singh, ironically, was returning from a conference on "Evidence in Global Disability and Health" in Hyderabad. Employees of the airline were also called but a senior officer finally permitted a ETD. Singh also had to explain that what he uses isn't a prosthetic limb but an orthosis into which he has to place his leg for support. 

"We are merely implementing guidelines issued by the Bureau Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). Our officers have been trained and briefed on how to deal with differently-abled passengers and we make sure nobody is harassed unnecessarily," said Hemendra Kumar, spokesperson, CISF. Singh, however, adds that he flies within India frequently but has never had to face this before. 

Aviation security officials say people with medical implants won't face any trouble and simply need to show a medial certificate. However, there is no standard rule for those with external aides and a doctor's certificate may not be enough to clear security. 

"The screening officer has to be satisfied that the external aides are for genuine use. For this, profiling is done and if the screening officer is not satisfied, he or she may ask for the aides to be taken off and screened. In the 1980s, a Delhi-Srinagar flight was hijacked by a person who hid weapons inside his plaster and carried a doctor's certificate for the same to clear security. We cannot take chances as a medical certificate can be easily obtained. We regret the inconvenience caused to anyone," said an official.

The Hindu

Harassed at Hyderabad airport, says disability activist

After having felt “harassed and humiliated” by security personnel at the Hyderabad airport this past Sunday, disability rights activist Satendra Singh, who has post-polio residual paralysis, has urged the Civil Aviation Ministry and Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities to ensure that persons with disability (PwD) are treated with dignity at airports and on flights.

Dr. Singh said he was shocked when a CISF official asked him to remove the callipers he uses for walking. “I explained gently that I cannot remove it and suggested that they could carryout an Explosives Trace Detector Test (ETD). The official refused and became adamant. I even explained the anatomy of the callipers but all in vain. Even the aircraft officials explained their helplessness citing security issues,” explained the doctor.

“I was invited to speak at the International Conference on Evidence in Global Disability and Health’ jointly organised by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Public Health Foundation of India at Hyderabad and was shocked by the lack of empathy of the security staff at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport,” said Dr. Singh, who works at the University College of Medical Sciences and Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital.

The physician added that this is not the first time that PwDs have been humiliated. “I was the last one to board my flight and was distraught after being humiliated at the airport. I have now written to the senior officials asking for their intervention.”

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