Friday, August 19, 2016

Interactive Kiosks with real time Sign Language Interpretation launched for Deaf & Hearing Impaired Customers in Brazil

Dear colleagues,

GOL, Delta’s partner in Brazil, has launched interactive kiosks for deaf customers at Rio de Janeiro's Santos Dumont and Rio GaleĆ£o airports.

This device connects customers to sign language interpreters via a real-time video conferencing system. These translators provide information about any aspect of the travel experience, including flight and gate information.

“We are very proud to offer this exclusive service to help our deaf and hard-of-hearing customers,” said Camila Bisinoto, GOL's Airport Manager. “It is very important to us that we provide the tools necessary to help all of our travelers enjoy their flights.”

The service has been available in Sao Paulo's Congonhas and Guarulhos airports since 2014, and the number of users has been growing steadily.

This device also provides more information about the assistance GOL provides to passengers with a physical, visual, hearing or mental disability.

Delta also remains committed to making travel more accessible, by providing closed-captioning on its in-flight entertainment systems, updating lavatories and enhancing the user experience at and kiosks.

Source: Delta 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Accessible Airport Award- Larnaca Airport, Cyprus adjudged Best European Airport providing services for persons with Disabilities

'Accessible Airport' honour for Larnaca Airport, Cyprus.

FAMAGUSTA GAZETTE • Sunday, 26 June, 2016

LARNACA AIRPORT has been highly commended as the Best European airport in providing services for people with disabilities, during the 12th General Assembly of the Airports Council International (ACI) – Europe, hosted in Athens on June 22.

The General Assembly was attended by various agencies and services from European airports.

As stated in the ACI’s press release Larnaca International Airport is “the highly commended airport for the Accessible Airport Award”.

Larnaca Airport is also honoured for “the positive travelling experience it gives to people with disabilities as well as for its great efforts to comply with accessibility standards”.

In a statement, Eleni Kaloyirou, Chief Executive Officer of Hermes Airports, said that “we are delighted with this honoring distinction obtained by Larnaca International Airport” and congratulated Sophie Christofides, Terminal Services Manager of Hermes Airports, also responsible for facilities and services for people with reduced mobility, as well and the company S & L Airport Services Ltd, who are responsible for the delivery of the services for people with disabilities at Larnaca Airport.

In addition, Kaloyirou highlighted the strong commitment of Hermes Airports to remain dedicated to the efforts for continuous improvement of this sector in providing high quality services to people with mobility problems or disabilities.

Source: Famagusta Gazette 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Comments invited on DGCA's CAR on carriage by Air of Persons with Disabilities. Closing date- 27 June 2016

Dear friends,

This is in continuation to my earlier post [hyperlinked titleSC slaps Rs.10 lakhs fine on Spice Jet for discriminating with a flier with disability dated 08 June 2016.

The Directorate of Civil Aviation has, after Jeeja Ghosh's Supreme Court ruling, has  issued yet another draft Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) on Carriage by Air of Persons with Disabilities and Persons with reduced mobility. The Hon'ble Supreme Court had directed the DGCA to revise the CAR after consulting with civil society to ensure that air travel was non discriminatory and safe for every one. 

Brief Background

After the 2008 CAR, when cases of discrimination related to persons with disabilities did not stop, the  DGCA  set up a Committee under the chairmanship of Shri Asok Kumar, with several representatives from Private and Public Airliners, BCAS, DGCA and the disability sector. The report of Asok Kumar Committee (Oct 2012)  can be found (hyperlink opens).

In response to the Asok Kumar Committee's report,  the DGCA issued a draft CAR in 2013, which was published, after comments from the sector as the DGCA CAR 28 Feb 2014 (hyperlink opens). 

In Jeeja Ghosh's case, the deficiencies between the CAR and the Committee Report were highlighted before the Supreme Court with the efforts of HRLN and thus the Supreme Court directed in the judgement that the CAR be revised. 

The DGCA had made some changes in the CAR such as removing the category of 'incapacitated persons', adding 'Autism' as one of the impairments etc. but there are many issues that are still a major concern for the sector. 

The draft CAR for public comments with a closing date of 27th June 2016 is uploaded on the DGCA's Website (draft opens in hyperlink). You may like to send your comments directly to Shri. Lalit Gupta,  Deputy Director General,  Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation,   Opp. Safdarjung Airport, Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi – 110 003 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Swiss International Airlines website to comply WCAG 2.0 AA Level by end of 2016

Dear Colleagues,

The SWISS International Airlines has announced that while core functions of have been accessible since December 2015 and at the moment, the functions such as booking flights and checking in online are accessible, and comply with level AA of the standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The entire website will comply with this standard by the end of 2016.

The SWISS wants to comply with the requirements of the World Wide Web to ensure that the airline can serve anyone who uses the website regardless of what their impairments or disabilities might be. 

SC slaps Rs.10 lakhs fine on Spice Jet for discriminating with a flier with disability [Judgement Included]

Dear Colleagues,

In a remarkable judgement in a clear case of disability discrimination, a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal of Hon'ble Supreme Court has directed the budget airline Spicejet to pay a sum of Rs 10 Lakh (One Million Indian Rupees) as damages to a flyer living with cerebral palsy, who was forcibly offloaded in 2012, saying the manner in which she was de-boarded depicts "total lack of sensitivity".

The apex court noted that the flier with disability Ms. Jeeja Ghosh was not given "appropriate, fair and caring treatment" which she required with "due sensitivity" and the decision to de-board her was "uncalled for".

"On our finding that SpiceJet acted in a callous manner, and in the process violated Rules, 1937 and Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), 2008 guidelines resulting in mental and physical suffering experienced by Ghosh and also unreasonable discrimination against her, we award a sum of Rs 10,00,000 as damages to be payable to her," observed the Bench.

Ms. Ghosh was offloaded from a SpiceJet flight on February 19, 2012 from Kolkata when she was going to attend a conference in Goa hosted by NGO ADAPT (Able Disable All People Together), the second petitioner in the case.

The bench said the decision to offload Ghosh was taken by the airlines without any medical advise or consideration and her condition was not such which required any assistive devices or aids.

"Even if we assume that there was some blood or froth that was noticed to be oozing out from the sides of her mouth when she was seated in the aircraft (though vehemently denied by petitioner), nobody even cared to interact with her and asked her the reason for the same. No doctor was summoned to examine her condition. Abruptly and without any justification, a decision was taken to de-board her without ascertaining as to whether her condition was such which prevented her from flying. This clearly amounts to violation of Rule 133-A of Rules, 1937 and the CAR, 2008 guidelines," the bench said.

Click here for the Judgement WP(C) No. 98/2012 Titled Jeeja Ghosh and Anr Versus Union of India and Others 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Union Road Transport Ministry proposes toll waiver to vehicles driven by Persons with Disabilities

The Road Transport Ministry of Government of India proposes to extend exemption to adapted motor vehicles driven by persons with disabilities. Look likes a good move based on a long pending demand. However, there are many grey areas. The Motor Vehicle Act 1988 still poses a barrier with some of its provisions explicitly not friendly to drivers with disabilities. So much so that persons with hearing impairments had to fight a long battle of even applying and being tested for a Driving Licence. (Refer to my posts "Deaf can now legally drive in India" and "Disabled and Driving- Can both co-exist together or at the cost of each other")

Section 52 continues to be vague about whether a person with disability can adapt his vehicle to suit his needs. There are not many manufacturers who come up with adapted vehicles. There are no sufficient authorized workshops that can undertake the adaptation, and even after the adaptation the individual with a disability is unsure of whether the adaptation is safe, legal in terms of law! A lot needs to done by the concerned Ministries else this will just remain another cosmetic action!

Here is the news story from Hindustan Times titled "Highways to be toll-free for vehicles driven by physically challenged" appearing in HT Delhi Edition May 07,2016.

Physically challenged people driving vehicles specially designed for them may soon be able to drive on national highways without paying toll.

The central government has decided to give toll exemption to “motor vehicle specially designed and constructed, and not merely adapted, for the use of a person suffering from some physical defect or disability, and used solely by or for such a person” on all national highways. Section 2(18) of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, defines such vehicles as “invalid carriage”.

The Union road transport and highways ministry, which is piloting the proposal, will notify the changes soon. The law ministry cleared the proposal last week.

“We thought that asking for a disability certificate would further hassle the person. Instead we decided to give exemption to persons with disability driving specially designed vehicles as defined under the MV Act,” said a senior road ministry official.

Certain automobile manufacturers, including Maruti, make cars with special features like hand-operated or automatic clutch and gear for the physically challenged.

Disability rights activists, however, are not impressed and term the move as “cosmetic”. “How many of the 26 million disabled people in India drive automated vehicles, maybe just 1%. It’s mere tokenism. Giving toll exemption has nothing to do with accessibility. Has the road ministry ever engaged with us to address transportation issues of persons with disability? How many public transport buses are accessible for the disabled, how many toilets on highways are disabled friendly?” said Javed Abidi, director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.

Internationally, many cities give toll exemption to persons with disability. In Florida, a handicapped person with a valid driver’s licence and operating a vehicle equipped for such persons gets a toll waiver. In UK, disabled persons are given a “blue badge” and get a toll exemption on showing the card.

Source: Hindustan Times

Monday, May 2, 2016

For failing to respond to disability complaints adequately DOT, USA fines Air France, Lufthansa & British Airways

Taking stringent enforcement action against some major airliners for consistently failing to provide dispositive responses to the complaints of passengers with disabilities, the Department of Transportation (DOT) on 14 April 2016 fined Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways among others.

Air France and Lufthansa were each fined $200,000 and British Airways was fined $150,000.  The airlines were also ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.

The US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “When air travelers file complaints with airlines, they deserve prompt and complete responses that appropriately answer their specific concerns. We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our rules protecting the rights of passengers”.

It may be pertinent to note that the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits airlines from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.  Under DOT rules, airlines are required to provide a written dispositive response to a written complaint alleging a violation of the ACAA within 30 days of receipt of the complaint. 

These consent orders are the results of several on-site regulatory compliance inspections conducted by the Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings.  During these inspections, the Department reviewed a number of disability-related complaint files and found that, in many occasions, Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways failed to provide dispositive responses to passenger complaints.  

Access the Consent Orders on website, with Docket number DOT-OST-2016-0002. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Woman with disability asked to remove prosthetic limb at Mumbai airport

Differently-abled woman asked to remove prosthetic limb at Mumbai airport

Dated: 02 Feb 2016

Mumbai: A 24-year-old differently-abled woman was allegedly asked to take off her prosthetic limb and pass it through the screening machine at Mumbai airport. The differently-abled woman Antara Telang claims she was humiliated by airport authorities and she was forced to move around with her heavy prosthetic limb. Telang added that this is not the first time she faced discrimination and that repeated complaints have made no difference.

"I was in tears this time, I felt humiliated in the manner the officials spoke to me. My dignity was completely taken away. They spoke to me rudely and asked me what is the full form of ETD (explosive trace detector). They put me in a room where the chair was in the far end and then I had to hop with my 6 kg prosthetic limb. Then they did not let me stand outside saying that "log aapko dekhenge" (people will see you). Please don't cry. We don't want to see you cry," she claimed.

Telang said that she was booked on an early morning flight. "I was arguing with them how they could screen me without taking off my clothes. They did not listen to me. They were rude. After 45 minutes I had to give in. I had no option but to strip and walk through a public place."

"This is not the first time. I have written twice to CISF. I used to carry my disability certificate. But this did not help. In past two years, I had to go through this experience 7-8 times here in Mumbai. We are not looking for sympathy. But when other countries can take some steps to ensure we don't go through a harrowing experience. I don't buy CISF's explanation that prosthetic limbs can't be exempted. They are not giving a proper reason. What security threat. People swallow drugs," she added.

Source: IBN Live

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Professor Anita Ghai, a wheelchair user made to crawl by Air India at Delhi Airport

Dear colleagues,

In a shocking case of apathy, Professor Anita Ghai- a disabled passenger, a colleague & activist  - was denied a wheelchair while deboarding from an Air India flight and was made to crawl up to the coach. She took the Alliance Air (Air India's regional arm) flight from Dehradun on Friday, on the evening of  29th Jan 2016 with four of her colleagues. 

A seasoned traveller, she waited with patience for her wheelchair to arrive, for which she had put in a request earlier as per procedure. But it did not, and in a shockingly insensitive incident, she was made to crawl on the tarmac from the aircraft to the coach. 

Dr Anita Ghai, 57, Professor at Ambedkar University, was travelling with her friend when she boarded Air India's flight AI 9610 on January 29 at 6.30pm (Dehradun to Delhi). The air-hostess did not register her requirement for a wheelchair despite repeated requests. "As per rules she again requested air hostess after reaching, but she was asked to be patient. She did not even get up as all passengers have to deplane , before she could go . The flight reached at 7:30 pm. Passenger coach came without wheelchair. She requested them to bring coach to aircraft, they said it can’t be done due to security reasons. after waiting for one hour, Anita Ghai was totally exhausted, and infact started howling and crying . There was no option for her BUT TO CRAWL, for 20 meters from airplane to the coach in absence of a wheelchair.

The Airliner, however, has issued a statement rebuffing the allegations and said that the wheelchair had been provided to the passenger. "Since the flight was parked at a distant bay it took some time to bring the wheelchair. Since passengers were getting down from the aircraft, our support staff actively helped the passenger to come out of the aircraft ensuring any inconvenience and the wheelchair was provided at aircraft doorstep," an Air India statement said.

"We deeply regret any inconvenience caused to the passenger. However, we strongly deny the statement appearing in media. We at Air India give utmost importance to passenger's safety and comfort," the statement added.

Dr. Ghai says that the airlines is 'blatantly lying' and has asserted that she is contemplating legal action. "I complained for a reason and not they are denying what happened. They are blatant liars. It was a case of complete negligence and I was traumatised. They should just acknowledge their mistake. If they don't I will ensure they don't do this again to disable people, just because we are vulnerable," Ghai said.

Narrating her side of the incident, she said that she was made to wait for more than 30 minutes for a wheelchair which never came and that she had to crawl out of the aircraft waiting for the coach to arrive with the chair.

"For around 15 minutes I was made to wait after all the passengers had de-boarded. They (stewards) told me that the wheelchair will come, but it did not. The door of the plane is narrow so I knew the chair could not be brought inside, but they did not even have an aisle chair. I can't stand as I have polio, so I crawled down the steps waiting for the chair. She was finally finally provided with a wheelchair at the arrival hall and not at the bay," she said.

Breaking his silence on the subject, Mr. Ashwani Lohani, CMD Air India aid, "This case is a sad case. There has been failure to the extent that it should have been mentioned in the ticket so that passenger handling gets advance information that there is a wheel-chaired person who needs a wheelchair at the ramp. This did not happen. Had she waited a bit, we would have provided her a wheelchair. He further said, I have written to the lady and we have regretted for the incident."

Media Coverage: 

(a) DNA : Disabled passenger made to crawl, slams 'liar' Air India's statement
(b) NDTV: Differently-Abled Woman Passenger Alleges Air India Made Her 'Crawl'
(c) Times Now:  Anita Ghai Demands Apology From Air India
(d) Times of India: No country for Differently abled.
(e) Indian Express:  Air India Accepts 'Delay' in Providing Wheelchair to Disabled Woman

Sunday, January 17, 2016

United Airlines fined $2.75 Million over failure to provide fliers with disabilities prompt & adequate assistance in enplaning & deplaning

United Airlines fined $2.75 million over treatment of disabled fliers and tarmac delays

The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined United Airlines $2.75 million over the carrier's treatment of disabled passengers and for stranding passengers on delayed flights for more than three hours.

The federal agency said an investigation of United Airlines' treatment of disabled passengers was sparked by "a significant increase in the number of disability-related complaints."

"A review of these disability-related complaints revealed that United failed to provide passengers with disabilities prompt and adequate assistance with enplaning and deplaning aircraft," the  Transportation Department said in a statement.

Those complaints included an incident in October when a passenger with cerebral palsy was forced to crawl out of a United flight because airline crew failed to provide him with a special wheelchair that he requested. The airline publicly apologized to the flier a week later.

In an employee newsletter Thursday, United Airlines said it had begun testing a new smartphone app and other technology so that passengers and crew members can more quickly order wheelchairs on planes and in terminals.

“We expect this to greatly improve our ability to have wheelchairs where they need to be, when they need to be there, so that our customers can get on their way home or to their next destination with ease,” said Jon Roitman, senior vice president of airport operations at United.

Of the $2-million fine assessed over the violations against disabled passengers, United has agreed to spend $150,000 to improve audits of its wheelchair vendors and $500,000 toward developing the technology to make it easier for passengers to request wheelchairs.

The remaining $750,000 of the fine was because of five lengthy delays that stranded passengers on the tarmac at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Dec. 8, 2013, plus another lengthy delay at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport on May 20, 2015. All six delays kept passengers on the planes for more than three hours because of severe weather.

Under a 2010 rule, commercial airlines are prohibited from holding passengers on a delayed flight for more than three hours without giving them the option to leave the plane. The time limit extends to four hours for international flights.