04 Dec 2012
This could just be the balm that differently abled individuals need in a year that began with one from their community being offloaded from a flight. A government committee has come up with a slew of suggestions on how to make flying a better experience for the disabled.
The civil aviation ministry forwarded the report prepared by joint secretary Asok Kumar to various government arms and airlines for their feedback.
The report was triggered by an incident in February 2012 when Jeeja Ghosh, who is afflicted with cerebral palsy, was offloaded by SpiceJet from its Kolkata–Mumbai flight. A committee was drawn up with experts from the government, the industry as well as various NGOs.
The report spells out how ground and airline staff must attend to disabled individuals, the training needed for the staff as well as how to redesign infrastructure.
Asok Kumar told TOI, "The report will serve as a framework or reference point (for making airports and flying easier for differently–abled persons). We have sent the committee report to various operators and government departments and are awaiting their feedback."
Rahul Cherian of the Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy, who was a member of the committee, said, "The main point is that we now have clarity on allocation of responsibility among airports and airlines." Persons with disabilities have to ask airlines for wheelchairs while the ambilift required to transport the wheelchairs is provided by the airport authorities. "This always led to delays for people. Moreover, there is no standardization of wheelchairs. Some airlines have two–wheel chairs while some have four–wheel chairs," said the Chennai–based Cherian, whose centre went through similar guidelines in western countries to help draw up the domestic rules.
Merry Barua of Delhi–based Action For Autism said, "The committee report provides a clear flow chart of how things should work for disabled people." The report says training should be provided for all personnel on how to deal and talk with disabled people. "There is a lot of ignorance over what constitutes disability. Hence events like Jeeju Ghosh’s offloading happen even in the West," she said.
However, not all are hopeful of the committee report changing things drastically for the differently–abled in India.