Sunday, October 23, 2016

For flyers with disabilities, the turbulence at airports never stops

Last week, Aditya Mehta was on his way to Hyderabad when he was stopped at the Bengaluru airport and made to undergo a gruesome security check during which his prosthetic leg was yanked off by Central Industrial Security Force personnel. By evening, his leg was bleeding. It was the second time in as many months that this had happened to him.

In India, shabby treatment of the disabled during air travel is business as usual. Earlier this year, Anita Ghai was forced to crawl to the passenger coach at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport as Air India could not find her a wheelchair. In 2012, SpiceJet ordered Jeeja Ghosh off its plane after the captain deemed her not fit to fly. Ghosh is afflicted with cerebral palsy and the airline staff did not know how to handle her. In May this year, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court ordered SpiceJet to pay Ghosh Rs 10 lakhs in compensation.

Mehta’s case is a combination of insensitive security staff and the absence of the latest scanning technology at airports. Ghai’s is one of negligence by Air India ground staff. And in the case of Ghosh, the problem was the insensitivity shown by SpiceJet crew and pilots towards a person with a disability.

All three people have one thing in common – they are individuals who have overcome their disabilities. Mehta is an internationally acclaimed para-cyclist who won a double silver at the Asian Para-Cycling Championships in 2013. Ghai is a professor, author and disability rights activist. Struck with polio more than 30 years before India had a Persons with Disabilities Act, she is now single-handedly setting up a disability studies programme at Ambedkar University in Delhi, where she teaches. And Ghosh was travelling from Kolkata to Goa for an international conference that intended to put a special focus on the challenges faced by persons with disabilities living in the global South.
23/10/16 Scroll
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