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