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.