Monday, November 13, 2017

Woman forced to CARRY her disabled sister off Jetstar flight after the airline failed to provide a wheelchair when they arrived


  • Danae Florias was forced to carry her disabled sister, Marissa, off a Jetstar flight, 100 meters to the terminal
  • It's believed Ms Florias was also forced to assemble a wheelchair by herself without help from Jetstar staff
  • Jetstar has confirmed it has apologised to its customer and an investigation has been launched 

13 Nov 2017,  Daily Mail Australia

Airline Jetstar has come under fire for not providing a wheelchair to help a woman take her disabled sister from the plane to the terminal.

Perth woman Danae Florias and her sister 26-year-old Marissa, who has cerebral palsy, had been on a holiday to Melbourne last month and were returning to Perth on Jetstar.

The woman was disgusted with the treatment her and her sister were shown by the airline, telling Nine News she was forced to carry her sister 100 metres to the terminal without a wheelchair.

It's believed the wheelchair was supposed to be there, but wasn't, and when she got to the terminal, she had to assemble a supplied wheelchair herself without any help from staff. 'Eventually my sister started crying, thinking they'd lost her wheelchair. She gets very anxious and upset easy so I couldn't calm her down,' said Ms Florias.

When Daily Mail contacted the airline, it said that other media had not told the whole story behind the incident. 'While our customer service officer had a wheelchair on hand to assist with the customer’s transfer from the aircraft to the terminal, we understand this did not meet her specific needs. He then offered to provide additional support,' said a spokesperson. 

In a statement the airline confirmed that it had advised Ms Florias that the investigation into the matter, and the ongoing chain of events, was ongoing. 'Every year Jetstar carries 60,000 passengers with specific needs,' said a Jetstar spokesperson.

'These reports are concerning and do not reflect the normal flight experience of our disabled passengers, many of whom fly with Jetstar often.'  'We apologize to the family for the distress involved and we're investigating how this occurred.'

This is the latest bungle in a series of incidents the airline has come under fire for of its treatment of customers with a disability. In 2009 the budget line upset three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley, who said he felt humiliated when the airline wouldn't allow him to use his own wheelchair. And more recently, renowned Australian musician Jim Conway was left frustrated by the airline, unable to board a flight to Melbourne earlier this year, because it did not have measures in place to transfer him safely into his seat. 

Ms Florias told Nine news that she would never fly Jetstar again.

Source: Daily Mail UK

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Discriminated for no fault: Airlines, airports in India fail their ‘special’ fliers

Aug 29, 2017, 1:12 am IST  | DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DONITA JOSE

Hyderabad: For the disabled, journeys on domestic flights are tales of never-ending turbulence. Days after the de-boarding of para-athlete Madhu Bagri from a Hyderabad-bound plane, the demand for standardisation of air travel protocols for the disabled has grown stronger. 

Hyderabad: International para-athlete Suvarna Raj says that she was de-boarded from a plane in a similar manner last month. “I reached a little late than usual and was given my boarding pass. But they denied me entry because my security check would take longer,” she says. She missed her flight and was allocated a seat on a flight which departed the next day. 

Experts say that such an incident would have never occurred had India been following International Protocol and using Explosive Trace Detection Systems (ETDs). These systems allow for security checks to be carried out without disabled persons having to part with their accessibility gear. 

A look at the figures (courtesy Times of India)
Nipun Malhotra, the founder of the Nipman Foundation, says, “I filed an RTI and found that over 77 airports in the country have ETDs, but they are not being used anywhere. Instead, we are forced to be transferred from our wheelchair or remove our prosthetic limbs in the name of security.”

Persons with disability ask why they have to undergo such humiliation when the necessary technology is available.

Their troubles do not end after the security check. “As per the procedure that is followed internationally, disabled persons are allowed to take their wheelchairs up to the aircraft door, where they are shifted to aisle chairs which can pass through the cabin. However, in India, the wheelchair goes into the baggage compartment and disabled passengers are physically lifted and carried to their seats, which is not only dangerous but also humiliating,” says Ms Suvarna Raj. Some airlines do not have aisle chairs, in which case the availability of seats in the front row becomes crucial, as was in the case of Madhu Bagri.

As per the protocol to be followed in Boeing flights, disabled persons may be seated in the front row. However, in smaller ATR flights, the emergency exit doors are located in the front, requiring mobile persons to be seated adjacent to them.

Accessibility experts say that some airlines do not have any provision for the assistance of disabled persons, as a result of which they are forced to crawl or drag themselves to their seats, which constitutes a violation of their human rights.

“The crux of the problem is that there is no penalty. Every time a disabled person with some privilege faces a problem, it is highlighted. But many unprivileged disabled persons face problems on a daily basis. Why can’t the Directorate General of Civil Aviation penalise airlines, airports instead of merely issuing warnings?” asks Mr Javed Abidi, the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People. 

Mr Abidi has helped the CISF chalk out a detailed plan of action. He says that the airline services must incorporate a provision for the declaration of disability at the ticketing stage to avoid such hassles.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Cochin International Airport Snubs Paralympic Champion

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | ARUN GEORGE

Aug 18, 2017, 

Athlete forced to wait in taxi car for 45 mins.

Kochi : Even Sachin Tendulkar tweeted how “extra proud” he was “of Team India’s performance at the World Dwarf Games”, but not everyone shared the same feelings toward the champion athletes. Certainly, not the Cochin International Airport (CIAL) authorities. Kerala athlete Joby Mathew, who was the pride of the 15-member Indian team that bagged 37 medals at the World Dwarf Games held in Canada, with a personal haul of six medals, two of which were Gold, was allegedly humiliated by the airport security on his triumphant homecoming.

The 41-year-old, who is physically challenged from birth with 60 per cent disabilities, was made to sit inside the taxi, he had hired at the airport, for nearly 45 minutes while the vehicle was tied to a chain for allegedly violating traffic rules inside the premises. “It was a painful experience,” said Joby Mathew, who added that he was “humiliated” by the authorities for a “humanitarian consideration” shown by the taxi driver. “There was lot of rush at the gates and I couldn’t make it through. So, the taxi driver agreed to pick me up some 25 metres further down the exit, but the authorities treated it as a violation and chained the vehicle with me inside,” said Joby.

Ernakulam district sports council president Zakir Hussain who was at the airport to receive the athlete said the authorities kept hold of the vehicle even after being informed about the passenger’s details and his physical condition. Airport director A.C.K. Nair maintained that they had only followed rules and claimed that the athlete’s vehicle was released soon after they found out who he was. “The driver had broken the rules by taking a one-way,” said Mr Nair. Meanwhile, Joby informed that their journey until then had been pleasant as the cabin crew of all three flights they boarded from Canada to Kochi had announced “how proud they were to have us on board”.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Para-Athlete Alleges Mistreatment by Airlines

PTI | 15 Aug 2017

New Delhi : A para athlete today alleged that she was "ill-treated" by the crew of a private airlines and "forcefully offloaded", even as the airlines refuted the claims.

Madhu Bagri, a wheelchair tennis player, said that she had booked herself on a SpiceJet flight from Tirupati to Hyderabad, which was scheduled to take off at 8.25 am. But she was later evicted from the aircraft.

According to the athlete, she was unable to reach her seat as the wheelchair could not fit in between the aisles of the aircraft, leading to an argument with the crew.

"As the aisle was not wide enough for the wheelchair, I was asked to walk or crawl to reach my seat in the third row. When I asked the crew to accommodate me in the front row, they told me that it was an emergency seat and that differently-abled people were barred from occupying it," Bagri told PTI.

"They threw me out with my baggage and left me at the arrivals section of the airport without giving me any solution to reach my destination," she complained.

The tennis player has lodged a complaint with the airport director. The airlines, however, denied any manhandling and ill treatment of the sports person.

"On reaching the aircraft, the passenger insisted on having the front row seat. All front row seats in Q400 Bombardier aircraft are emergency exit rows and hence, passengers with any kind of disability are not allowed to sit on these seats as per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rules," a SpiceJet spokesperson said in a statement.

The airline said Bagri was offloaded as the plane was getting delayed, adding that "at no point was she manhandled or mistreated and the SpiceJet women staff assisted her out."

As per the DGCA rules on Carriage by Air - Persons with Disability and/or Persons with Reduced Mobility, airlines shall not allocate those seats to persons with disability or reduced mobility where their presence would impede the crew in performing their duties, obstruct access to emergency equipment or impede emergency evacuation path of the aircraft."

The aviation body also mandates that in case a differently-abled passenger is offloaded, the airline will have to provide assistance.

"If passengers for any reason have to be offloaded, highest possible priority for transportation shall be given to persons with disability or reduced mobility, including their escorts, if any," it says.

SpiceJet noted that it had made arrangements for the athlete on a bigger aircraft which was scheduled to fly later in the day.

"The passenger was given a choice to travel by SpiceJets Boeing flight, which was scheduled to depart at 4:30 pm and she was also informed that the first row seat would be reserved for her. However, the passenger continued to use offensive language," the statement said. PTI JC SRY

Source: India Today

Indigo Airlines Draws Flak over Broken Wheelchair

Dear Colleagues,

We have always found IndiGo Airlines as one of the few good, sensitive, compassionate and responsible Airlines in India. However, after Nipun Malhotra's Facebook post below that went viral, Media quickly picked up the story highlighting the issue.

Facebook post of Mr. Nipun Malhotra:
"Extremely disappointing that I was brought down the plane in a broken wheelchair by
IndiGo DEL - BOM 6E 167 - big safety threat! Sad to see the fall in standards!" 

No doubt, the onus of keeping the wheelchairs safe in the cargo hold lies with IndiGo and yet we have a wheelchair that has visible damage and is potentially unsafe for the passenger now. The policy on refund / bearing the cost of repair/ replacing the broken part of the wheelchair is very vague and doesn't specify that the exact part be replaced or cost paid to the passenger. The modern wheelchairs may range from few thousand rupees to few lakh Indian Rupees.  Here is the coverage in Mumbai Mirror:

INDIGO AIRLINES DRAWS FLAK OVER BROKEN WHEELCHAIR
By Satish Nandgaonkar, Mumbai Mirror | Updated: Aug 14, 2017

Indigo Airlines was at the receiving end of social media ire after a 29-year-old differently-abled activist, lodged a strong protest against the carrier for allocating him a broken wheelchair when he landed in Mumbai on Sunday morning.

"Extremely disappointing that I was brought down the plane in a broken wheelchair by Indigo6E DELMUM 6E 167 - Big safety threat," Nipun Malhotra tweeted, along with pictures of a damaged spoke of the wheelchair's rim, causing a flutter on social media.

According to Malhotra, they were alighting from the Delhi-Mumbai flight, which arrived at 9:30 am on Sunday, when he noticed the broken wheelchair. "I had my personal attendant travelling with me. When we were coming down the ramp, the wheelchair felt rickety and we noticed that a spoke was broken. It was an extremely scary experience. Once down, the airline staff even tried to stop us from taking pictures," said Malhotra, who is a co-founder and CEO of Nipman Foundation.

The Foundation runs Wheels for Life initiative which encourages donors to donate wheelchairs to the needy. Malhotra not only writes regularly on disability issues, his efforts also led to Zomato incorporating `wheelchair access' filters and wheelchairs being made available at events like NH7 music festival and the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Meanwhile, Indigo's swiftly apologised on Twitter."We believe someone from our team has contacted you. We truly regret the experience and assure you we're treating this with utmost importance. Our passenger safety and comfort is extremely important for us," read a post by the Twitter handle.When contacted, Indigo spokesperson promised to issue a formal response soon but the same was awaited at the time of going to press.

Incidentally, Indigo is one of the most preferred airlines for people with disabilities (PwDs). The carrier has received The Disability Matters Award Asia Pacific thrice, including in 2017.

"Indigo is also the preferred airline for many of us but I am sad that the standards have fallen. I want an unconditional apology from the airline, and it should come out with a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure that this does not happen ever again," Malhotra told Mumbai Mirror.

The incident comes less than a month after para-athlete Suvarna Raj took on Indigo for not allowing her to board the Delhi-Udaipur flight on July 19 claiming there was no time to scan her wheelchair before boarding.

Suvarna had won two medals at 2013 Para Table Tennis Open Championship held in Thailand and was also honoured by President Pranab Mukherjee with National Role Model and National Youth Awards in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

While Suvarna alleged that she reached the IGI airport in Delhi at 12.45 pm for the 1.25 pm flight but was not allowed to board by the airline staff.The airline, meanwhile, refuted her claim and said that she arrived at 12.54 pm, which was 10 minutes after they closed the boarding gate.

"Such things happen regularly to us. A broken spoke of a wheelchair can be dangerous for us who are wheelchair-bound, and Nipun is right in demanding more than a regret from the airline," said Raj, who was allegedly forced to sleep on the floor on the Nagpur-Nizamuddin Garib Rath Express in June after she was allocated an upper birth despite mentioning her disability while booking her tickets.

Indigo is one of India's leading low cost airlines with a 40 per cent market share as of June 2017.  It has a fleet of 136 aircraft, including 22 new generation A320 Neos.

Source: Mumbai Mirror


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Vanilla Air makes a wheelchair user to drag himself in to flight; refuses any physical help in absence of ambulift.


Airline apologizes for making wheelchair user climb up boarding ramp on his hands

TOKYO: A Japanese airline said Wednesday it has apologized for making a wheelchair user hoist himself up a staircase from the tarmac to board his flight. 

Hideto Kijima, a vivd traveler and President of Japan Accessible Tourism Center,  faced the problem earlier this month while returning to Osaka from the southern island of Amami with friends. 
Image of Hideto Kijima, President - Japan Accessible Tourism Centre
Mr. Hideto Kijima, President,
Japan Accessible Tourism Centre

Vanilla Air, the budget affiliate of Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways, told him before boarding on June 5 that the small airport requires the use of stairs and has no lift to safely carry a disabled person onto the plane. Vanilla also refused to let his friends carry him in his wheelchair or separately. 

Kijima, 44, who is paralyzed from the waist down, wrote on his blog that he got out of the wheelchair, resisted airline staff who tried to stop him and hoisted himself up the stairs with his arms, a process that took several minutes. 

"I just had to ignore them and keep moving up, or I could not go back to Osaka,'' he wrote. One of his friends helped push him, and at the top he was put into a wheelchair and taken to his seat. "I've never thought I would be refused to fly for not being able to walk,'' he said. "It's a human rights violation.'' 

Vanilla said it has apologized to Kijima and that new lifts are being installed. 

"We apologized to him for the unpleasant experience,'' Vanilla spokesman Akihiro Ishikawa said. "We also explained that we are taking measures to improve our service.'' 

Japanese media reported on his ordeal on Wednesday. 

Kijima, an advocate of barrier-free traveling, who alsoheads the Japan Accessible Tourism Center, a nonprofit in the city of Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture - the center that provides foreign tourists with disabilities who need assistance with information about travel in Japan- says he has visited 158 countries and used 200 airports, and has never been rejected before. He says he is not asking for fancy equipment but just some assistance. 

Ishikawa said Amami is the only airport on Vanilla's 14 international and domestic routes without lifts for wheelchair users.

Sources:

1. Economic Times 
2. Japan Times



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

American Airline label a flyer with disability (a double amputee) as 'intoxicated"; called police

In the instant case, the American Airlines is facing a lawsuit after it called cops to escort a flyer with disability - a double amputee, labeling him "intoxicated' after forgetting his wheelchair.

As the American Airlines plane full of passengers looked on, two law enforcement officers escorted Mr. Michael Mennella — a double amputee with no feet — down the aisle and into the airport. They told him he was under arrest for extreme intoxication. But soon enough, the officers realized Mennella was sober. He'd simply hobbled down the aisle to ask for a drink on a flight that departed Miami without the wheelchair the airline had promised him.

That's what Mennella, a businessman traveling for work, claims in a new lawsuit that's sure to fuel more anger at airlines for horribly mistreating their passengers.

"As demonstrated by police-administered field tests, and as revealed in an official field report, Mr. Mennella was not intoxicated," says the suit, filed in federal court in Miami. "Instead, he was an innocent victim of AA's brutish misconduct."

In an emailed statement, American Airlines declined to comment on the specifics of Mennella's case but said it is committed to providing a positive and safe travel experience to all of its customers and looks forward to addressing his concerns.

Mennella's ordeal began August 28, 2016, when he arrived at Miami International Airport and discovered that American had not reserved a wheelchair he requested. A Florida resident, he was headed to Las Vegas with some colleagues for a conference.

Since losing his feet in a car accident six years ago, Mennella has sought assistance boarding flights. When American Airlines told him no wheelchair was available for the flight to Vegas, he was forced to struggle down the jet bridge, which caused pain to flare up in his legs.

Mennella asked for water to take his medicine, the lawsuit says, but a flight attendant refused. After asking several times, he walked on his stumps to the back of the plane to ask another attendant for help. His request went ignored, and he struggled back to his seat.

American Airlines personnel told passengers seated near Mennella, including his colleagues, that he was "a drunk" and that the plane was being diverted to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The airline had told airport police that Mennella was "intoxicated to the point of needing medical attention," according to a police report included in the lawsuit.

"The law enforcement officers proceeded to tell Mr. Mennella that he was being arrested for a felony due to his intoxication, and that the severity of his crime merited a lengthy incarceration," the lawsuit says.

But once the officers began speaking with Mennella, they concluded he was not under the influence of any kind of substance, police reports indicate. He was released and had to arrange for a different flight to Las Vegas.

Mennella's suit claims American defamed him and damaged his reputation by calling him a drunk and taking him off the plane. It also argues the airline's actions were negligent.

In an email included in the lawsuit, an American Airlines customer service representative told Mennella that the flight had to be diverted due to his "disruptive and unruly behavior" and lewd language and that the pilot made the decision "for the safety of all passengers."

"We believe our pilot made the correct decision in this situation," the email said, "and we apologize if you feel otherwise."



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Frontier Airlines Refused a Blind Flyer to Board the Flight with Child in Florida, USA

The Tampa Bay Times reports that a legally blind flyer was refused by Frontier Airlines to board a flight with his 18-month-old grand daughter.

As per the report, Kliphton Miller tried to board a Frontier flight from Tampa to Las Vegas with the child on May 23, 2017. The 44-year-old Miller asked for help getting on the plane once he reached his gate. That's when airline employees began to question his ability to watch over the young child during the trip, according to Miller.

"I frequently fly with my grand daughter on other airlines and had flown on Frontier with her before too, but they still denied me access," Miller told the newspaper. "I was denied because I am blind. They told me I was a liability."

Frontier employees told Miller that he would be a liability in the case of an emergency, he said. They said it was against their corporate policy to let him on board.

"I would have been fine on the plane," Miller told The Tampa Bay Times. "Usually flight attendants will help me to the bathroom if I need to change her, but I can do it myself. I was a single dad for 10 years before I got married, and then I was a stay-at-home dad. I am completely capable." 

Frontier later apologized and rescheduled his trip to Las Vegas free of charge. Richard Oliver, a spokesman with Frontier, called the incident a "customer service failure."

For the complete news please visit CBS News weblink

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How will visually impaired flyers manage in silent terminals?

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SHRUTI SURESH

May 7, 2017

The orientation map will give him confidence that he is being taken in the right direction by the helper " said a senior airport official.

Chennai: The decision by Airports Authority of India (AAI) to declare Chennai airport as a silent one has raised concerns from people with disabilities, especially the blind.

While air travellers have demanded an increase in displays and sending of SMSs informing passengers well in advance, the question remained how visually-challenged travellers will be able to board the aircraft without hassles.

To cater to people with blindness, meanwhile, the AAI in Chennai is also working with a local institution for people with disabilities to create a tactile map of the airport that would provide them directions to move about. "This will be in addition to the helper's assistance.

The orientation map will give him confidence that he is being taken in the right direction by the helper "  said a senior airport official. "In a span of two months, the map should be ready," the official added.

"Till the orientation map materialises, however, the existing Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of each airline operator providing a traveller with disabilities, a helper will still continue. Right from entering the airport boarding a flight, there is assistance, so the visually impaired travellers need not worry about missing announcements," said a senior AAI official at Chennai.

"Besides that, we haven't become completely silent, minor enhancements, including that of a gate change and delays are being made. Gradually, the airport will be made completely silent and all announcements will be done through SMSs," the official added.

According to senior officials, the move was taken to reduce the confusion caused due to multiple announcements.' "Passengers get frustrated with noise, and this move is to increase the comfort of travellers," an official said.

The official added that different zones in the airport are being earmarked for making announcements - last minute calls, gate change, delays will be announced in different zones.

For visually-challenged travellers, having a helper in case of extended delays is again troublesome. "Having an announcement system linked to an app will help them board their planes without the fear of missing their flights," said Smitha Sadasivan of Disabilities Rights Alliance.

No separate provisions for differently abled available

After Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, Chennai has been declared as silent airport.  But officials at other airports say no separate provisions for the visually-challenged are available.

Ketan Kothari, a visually-challenged frequent flyer, from Mumbai, said that people like him are overly dependent on announcements, and there have been a few incidents in the past where people have missed their flights at airports like Delhi and Mumbai.

“Reducing anxiety and stress by making airports silent is a concept aped from airports in the West, and going by that logic even railway stations can be made silent. If an area around a hospital is made silent, it is understandable but why an airport,” he questioned.

He added that despite having assistance from airlines before boarding a flight, a person needs to have the confidence that he won't miss his flight, and for that announcements are imperative.

Speaking of the introduction of the silent airport concept in Delhi, a spokesperson of Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said that with about 40 flight departures per hour, multiple boarding announcements in multiple languages for each flight is not a practical choice for an airport of a huge size, Delhi, for instance.

Rules for the provision of assistance applies to all Persons with Restricted Mobility (PRM) as per the international rules by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

“Still, depending on the need, the announcements are made near the boarding gate area for last minute passengers and any emergency situations,” he added.
The spokesperson also said that the same provisions are provided for all people with special needs, by airports going out of their way to ensure a hassle-free experience with the help of the airport staff — right from CISF at the entrance, to help desks, airline staff, and assistance providers.

“All help provided is based on the regulations in place, and if there's a change in the regulations, similar arrangements would be made accordingly in future,” the spokesperson continued.

Source: Deccan Chronicle 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

HT Editorial - Callous airline staff’s attitude reflects our apathy towards India’s disabled population

Apr 27, 2017 | Hindustan Times | Editorial

On Wednesday, cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted about an incident where an expat pilot abused and assaulted two travellers flying to Mumbai, one of them a person with orthopaedic disability. Apart from changing India’s famously inaccessible built environment we need to develop a culture of sensitivity towards the country’s 2.68 crore disabled.

There’s more to it than just racism. On Wednesday, cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted about alleged racism by an expat pilot from Jet Airways. According to Singh, the pilot abused and assaulted two travellers flying to Mumbai, one of them a person with an orthopaedic disability. When the flight landed, he had to wait for 25 minutes for the wheelchair to be brought to the seat. On top of it, the pilot screamed at him for checking-in the wheelchair and delaying the flight. This was done despite the airline allowing them to check it in at Chandigarh from where they had boarded.

This is not the first time a wheelchair-bound traveller has complained of misbehaviour by airline crew. Last year, Paralympics silver winner Deepa Malik filed a complaint against poor handling of wheelchair-bound passengers by the staff of Air Vistara. “The wheelchair handling is so poor that you do not know how to shift a person from seat to cabin chair. The entire staff stands and looks at each other for 10 minutes,” she had said. In 2015, disability rights activist Javed Abidi was forced to get off his wheelchair at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Despite protests, the CISF warned him to comply or miss his flight. Ironically, in 2014, Abidi was part of a panel of activists who had helped frame guidelines to ensure there was no discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel.

According to the 2011 Census, the number of disabled in India stands at 2.68 crore, or 2.21 per cent of the population. India’s built environment is infamously inhospitable to the disabled and the elderly, confining them to their homes. Most public buildings lack ramps and even ATM machines have steps leading up to them. The recently passed Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016, promises barrier-free access to buildings to the disabled, but implementation is lax. Merely de-rostering the pilot, as Jet Airways did, won’t be enough to change the ground reality on discrimination. We need to inculcate a culture of sensitivity towards the physically challenged.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

UK enforces changes in Equality Act effective 06 Apr 17 that makes it illegal for taxi drivers to discriminate against wheelchair users

Dear colleagues,

In UK the Law change makes it illegal for taxi drivers to discriminate against wheelchair users.

Taxi drivers face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra, in a change to the law which comes into force today (6 April 2017).

From today taxi and private hire vehicle drivers will be obliged by law to:

  • transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair
  • provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance
  • charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users


Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:

We are building a country that works for everyone, and part of that is ensuring disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else – including when it comes to travel. People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.

The changes apply to England, Wales and Scotland affecting vehicles that are designated as wheelchair accessible and apply to both taxis and private hire vehicles. All taxis in London and a significant number in most major urban centres are wheelchair accessible.

Drivers found to be discriminating against wheelchair users face fines of up to £1,000 as part of provisions being enacted from the Equality Act. Drivers may also face having their taxi or Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) licence suspended or revoked by their licencing authority. Drivers unable to provide assistance for medical reasons will be able to apply to their licensing authority for an exemption from the new requirements.

Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said:

Today’s change in legislation is positive news, as we know that disabled people often have to rely on taxis where accessible public transport isn’t an option.

Taxi drivers can provide a vital service in getting wheelchair users from A to B so they are able to maintain their livelihoods and play an active part in society. Today creates a level playing field for both drivers and passengers.
Transport Accessibility.
Taxi drivers can lose their licence and face a fine of up to 1000 Pond
if they fail to transport wheelchairs
The law now makes clear the rights for wheelchair users and the responsibilities of taxi drivers, including the penalties that will occur if they aren’t observed. Wheelchair users are frequent customers of taxi services, so instead of being apprehensive of these new rules, taxi companies should promote their accessibility credentials.

The new requirements complement those already in place to prevent discrimination against users of assistance dogs and underline the government’s wide-ranging commitment to supporting transport networks which work for everyone.

The government will be consulting on a draft Accessibility Action Plan later this year, which will seek to address the barriers faced by disabled people in accessing all modes of public transport.

Source: Gov[dot]UK

Easyjet Pilot offloads Deaf-Blind independent flyer for last 35 years

Dear Colleagues,

This discriminatory incident being reported from Scotland where a Deaf-blind flyer Mr. Frankie Thomson, 52 who has been travelling independently for past 35 years and uses a guide dog for mobility, was escorted off a plane moments before the take-off when the pilot refused to let him fly unaccompanied for ‘safety reasons’.

The incident occurred on an Easyjet Edinburgh to Gatwick flight last month and has left Mr Thomson confused. ‘I could feel people watching me wondering what I’d done. I felt people were talking about me,’ he said through a guide communicator.

‘I wasn’t embarrassed or anything – just confused and thinking what was going on. I’ve never had any problems before.’ After being escorted off the plane Mr Thomson was put in a cab and taken back to his girlfriend Katie Swinton’s flat in Loanhead, Midlothian.

She was the one who booked the tickets for him in October for a weekend visiting friends in London and she had requested special assistance.

‘I was so stressed and upset. They asked me to contact them on a phone number but how could I? I’m deaf,’ Ms Swinton added. Mr Thomson’s case has been taken up by SNP Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard.

Easyjet has apologised and a spokeswoman said they offered him assistance and free flights the next day for him and a companion. He will also receive a refund.

The spokeswoman said: ‘Easyjet is sorry that Mr Thomson was unable to travel on his flight and understand how upsetting this would have been for him. ‘The captain took the decision to offload him prior to departure due to concerns over his welfare after he was unable to communicate with the crew about the safety procedures. ‘The safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is always Easyjet’s highest priority.’

Mr Thomson is deaf from birth and a degenerative eye condition has left him partially sighted.

Source: Metro

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mother’s outrage after ‘power-tripping’ airport security pat down 13-year-old son


30 March 2017

This is the moment airport security patted down a 13-year-old boy for two full minutes, leaving him ‘traumatised’, according to his mother.  Aaron Williamson, who suffers from Sensory Processing Disorder, was stopped while heading through security at Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport.

His outraged mother Jennifer hit out at the transport security agency (TSA) in a Facebook post, claiming she and her son were ‘treated like dogs’. She was allegedly detained for ‘well over an hour’, during which time an airport officer extensively patted down her son, who was wearing cut off shorts and a T-shirt.

As an SPD sufferer, it is not known whether or not Williamson took advantage of TSA Care which takes into consideration certain conditions for travellers. His mother said: ‘He set off NO alarms. He physically did not alarm at all during screening, he passed through the detector just fine.

He is still several hours later saying “I don’t know what I did. What did I do?”. I am livid. Please, share [and] make this viral.’ In her post, which has been seen 7.1 million times, she calls for the TSA to be ‘reined in’. The American security agency brought in new rules recently calling for ‘comprehensive pat-down procedures’ for passengers.

Making searches more intrusive the standardised system replaces the choice airport customers previously had between body scanners or other technology only if they set off alarms. The TSA is standing by the controversial Texas incident.

‘In total, the pat-down took approximately two minutes,’ they wrote in a statement, ‘and was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to mitigate the concerns of the mother. ‘The passengers were at the checkpoint for approximately 45 minutes, which included the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the mother and to screen three carry-on items that required further inspection.’ People on Twitter deemed the incident inappropriate with some calling it ‘near-molestation’.




Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pratyush Nalam, an IIT-B techie outrages against Air India after airline left his wheelchair in India

New Delhi | Published:February 15, 2017 


Enraged on learning that his sole support of movement had been kept away, he took to Facebook to express his discontentment with Air India's "unprofessional" service.

Despite having a condition that rendered him immobile since birth, Pratyush Nalam – a software whiz graduated from IIT Mumbai – has always lived his life to the fullest. The 23-year-old suffers from spinal muscular atrophy due to which he can’t walk, and uses a motorised wheelchair to commute. All set to join Microsoft in Seattle, Nalam flew from Chennai to New York via Delhi on two Air India flights.

Picture of the Facebook post of Pratyush Nalam posted on https://www.facebook.com/pratnala/posts/10210158390489903
Facebook Post by Pratyush Nalam
On February 12, when Nalam landed at the John F Kennedy international airport in New York, he was in for a shock as Air India had not transported his battery-operated wheelchair on-board. Moreover, the vehicle was held back by the security staff in New Delhi without any prior information or notification.

Hopeless and helpless, he had no other option than to be stranded at the airport and wait for his travel aid. Citing the reason that the wheelchair contained batteries that are apparently not allowed on the flight, Air India could not transport it to US. Enraged on learning that his sole support of movement had been kept away, he took to Facebook to express his discontentment with Air India’s “unprofessional” service.

“The least you could do was to contact the passenger before the flight took off and at least confirm. Fortunately, you know, the passenger didn’t die an untimely death yet,” he wrote, adding, “That motorized wheelchair is the only way I travel from Point A to Point B. It is more than a person’s legs for me. Do you leave behind your aircraft’s landing gear because it didn’t clear security? Try to use some empathy before you take such decisions next time.”

Several users were upset about the incident. While some posted angry comments, others went on to share similar ordeals that they had earlier faced

Nalam was later informed by the Air India staff that his wheelchair has been loaded on the next flight and would reach him the next morning (February 13), but without its batteries.

Nalam posted an update on Facebook and wrote: “Those are dry, non-spillable, gel batteries. Perfectly allowed under domestic and international civil aviation rules. You see, as a passenger, I am careful about what is allowed and not allowed under the rules as I travel pretty often.”

Wondering if his wheelchair would reach him in one piece, he added, “This is the same Air India that damaged this very wheelchair when I flew them in August 2015 on the same sector.”

“Disabled passengers are not second class citizens. Neither are we a liability. We live fulfilling lives and the least you could do is to treat us and our equipment with dignity and respect,” he also wrote in another post to express his dismay.

When it finally arrived in New York, the wheelchair had to be taken to a service centre to be made operational. Not just the battery, but the wire that connects it for motorised travel was also missing. Adding a fresh post to elaborate on how he got it fixed, Nalam wrote: “As my wheelchair is not sold in the United States, Mr Jeff got a set of custom wiring to be made for my wheelchair so that I can be mobile again. He took special care and treated it as an emergency and this reaffirms my faith that good people are still left in this world.”

Source: Indian Express

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

‘I Am Not Asking for Charity’ – the Man Fighting for Disabled-Friendly Screening at Indian Airports [Story from Better India]

January 2017 | The Better India

by Guest Contributor 

Rajesh Bhatia writes about his experiences at airports as an above-knee amputee, and why he started a campaign asking the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security to make security procedures inclusive.

I am an above-knee amputee since 1992, when I lost my leg to a fatal road accident. After the initial trauma, I marched ahead in my life and rose to among the top most echelons of one of India’s largest multi-national companies.

I fly frequently for work, both domestically and internationally from several Indian airports.

Each time I pass through the security check points at the airports, I am treated like a criminal by CISF, the security staff, just because I use a prosthetic limb (artificial leg) for my mobility.

Having not received any training on the screening of persons with prosthetics, the security staff is generally clueless on how to handle my screening. I am asked and many times, even forced, to strip and to remove my prosthetic because they suspect that I might be hiding a gun or a knife in my prosthetic. The security staff then picks up my prosthetic and puts it on the x-ray machine as if it is a piece of luggage, while I am left immobile and in a state of agony praying that I receive my prosthetic undamaged. I have to then go through the process of putting on my prosthetic, which by then does not have enough suction to stay in place thereby putting my mobility and safety in jeopardy.

Let me tell you that the suction of a prosthetic does not allow even the air to pass through it. Then how can I hide a weapon in my prosthetic?

Imagine being harassed this way since October 2012, each time I have undertaken air travel! How would I feel? Even several women amputees, including Sudha Chandran, have been harassed in this manner.

On October 8, 2013, while I was leaving with my family for a vacation to Thailand from Delhi’s IGI airport, the metal detector beeped owing to my prosthetic. I showed them my disability certificate. Yet the security staff seemed confused. After turning down my request for pat-down or ETD frisking, they forced me to strip in front of their entire staff and a CISF officer asked me repeatedly if I got married before or after my amputation.

I want to make it clear that CISF is not to be blamed. It is a puppet in the hands of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security India (BCAS), the organization that has laid down such humiliating screening procedures for PwDs.

The dictate of BCAS to CISF to regard PwDs, including amputees who use prosthetics, a bigger security risk; to ask them to strip and remove their prosthetic and, to make wheelchair users stand up – as they all may be carriers of explosives and weapons – is a violation of their human rights.

I have been informed by several PwDs that they do not undertake air travel for the fear of being humiliated. It has been my goal since my first harrowing experience with frisking in 2012, to be the voice of millions of PwDs in India. I would never like them to go through similar trauma with airport security. For that reason I launched my petition against BCAS on change.org and even my campaign’s Rajesh Speaks’s Facebook in 2013. I have not received any response from BCAS from the signatures on my petition.

I have also written several letters to former PM Manmohan Singh, PM Narendra Modi, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), CISF, CCPD (Office of the Chief Commissioner of PwDs) and others. Yet I got no response from them and in exceptional cases when I did hear back from them, including to my RTI and my letter to PM Narendra Modi, their offices ignored my concerns and simply passed on the buck to another organization.

I have travelled worldwide including to Europe, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Belgium, United States and Russia. The airport security at each one of these places treats me respectfully and simply frisks me with a pat-down process.

The entire screening procedures for PwDs and the insensitivity of BCAS and CISF need a humane face. They need to be sensitised. Isn’t that more important than building fancier airports?

1) Lay down clear guidelines in its Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, for the security screening of PwDs;

2) Sensitize and train CISF in the respectful screening of PwDs;

3) Install full body scanners at Indian airports of the kind that are used at the airports in United States;

4) Enforce zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination of PwDs.

Raja Srivastava, Additional Director General BCAS, had given his word to me at a CISF training workshop on March 30, 2014, at which I was invited to present my thoughts on the frisking of people who use prosthetic, that he would be open to incorporating my suggestions in the SOP for screening of PwDs. However, even he has backed out of his word to me.

In May 2014, my sister Smiti Bhatia and I had conducted extensive research on the international security norms for PwDs and had written a manual under the guidance of disability advocates, on the “Screening Guidelines to be Followed by CISF for PwDs at Indian Airports.” The manual abides by the world class screening procedures, and by the language of Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It was also laid out by our teammate in a PPT with visuals. I had handed over the manual to Mr. Ajay Kumar and Mr. O.P. Singh, senior CISF officers, in June, 2014. They had approved the manual. However, BCAS has not included it in its SOP.

In May 2016, Supreme court had passed a judgement in Jeeja Ghosh’s case against her discrimination by Spice Jet that “there should be a full recognition of the fact that persons with disability were integral part of the community, equal in dignity and entitled to enjoy the same human rights and freedoms as others.” Jeeja Ghosh has Cerebral Palsy. She was de-boarded by the flight crew because of her disability.

By violating the human rights of PwDs, BCAS is in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgement. It is a shame that such repeated assaults on the most vulnerable citizens of India are allowed in a democracy.

Following the ruling, Supreme Court had directed Director General of Civil Aviation to consult with civil society to ensure that air travel was non- discriminatory for PwDs. On June 27, 2016, the disability advocates, including Smiti and I, had submitted our comments, including our manual to DGCA. We have not received any response from DGCA.

I am asking BCAS and MoCA that my rights and those of PwDs be restored. I am not asking for charity. I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of India.