On 22 November 2017, Svayam organized a ‘National Meeting of Stakeholders’ in New Delhi to seek ideas and suggestions for improving air travel experiences of persons with disabilities & those with reduced mobility. The meet was inaugurated by Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder, Svayam, in the presence of stakeholders, usergroups, disability rights activists and representatives of the DPOs, Parent’s Groups and NGOs working with Persons with disabilities.
All stakeholders, particularly diverse user groups from across the nation, raised their concerns, shared experiences – both positive and those requiring action for betterment, and made suggestions to improve the policy framework and its implementation as well as a consensus for a robust grievance redressal system. While stakeholders in Delhi NCR were present at the event, those from outstation participated through skype and email to share their grievances, ideas and comments.
Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot, Hon’ble Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, blessed the event with his message due to his last minute official engagement. Shri Gehlot expresed that the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is committed to help the Divyangjans lead a productive and respectable life, and travelling with dignity and safety is a fundamental right of every human being. He assured that the Govt. will consider the recommendations coming out of the consultation meeting as it is committed to improve the air travel experience for all.
Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder, Svayam, said: “Over the time, the CAR seem to have been amended without involving the disability sector and also certain laxities have been observed on the part of airlines and BCAS that has led to a strong resentment in the passengers with disabilities.”
She added that this year has been remarkable for the disability sector for the Govt. of India notified the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2017, raising the number of disabilities from 7 to 21. “This presents an opportunity for all of us to revise the existing framework of civil aviation requirements for carriage of persons with reduced mobility by air to address their issues as well.”
“Just imagine the pride we will have as a nation if we achieve our objectives in making our airports and airlines accessible; it will really put India on global map as one of the best air travel countries for persons with disabilities and those having reduced mobility,” Svayam Founder said.
Director-Svayam, who moderated the sessions, said, “The stakeholders feel that the Ashok Kumar Committee recommendations have also not been fully incorporated in the present DGCA’s CAR on carriage of persons with disabilities by air as well as in the SOPs published by BCAS. So, we hope this meeting will work like an eye-opener, and the recommendations arising from it will bring the desired changes in existing rules, infrastructure and airport and airline & security staff behaviour.”
The discussions and feedback went beyond the Consultation Meet and continued for several days via emails towards preparations of the final recommendations. We deeply appreciate the contribution made by the participants not just during the consultation meet but mulling it over subsequently to arrive at a more balanced draft covering needs of maximum diversity.
The stakeholders discussed key issues which still create difficulties for persons with disabilities while travelling by air, and also suggested solutions and global best practices. The list of issues raised included ease of ticket booking and collection of information about specific needs, helpline, info on website, accessible taxi service, knowing the aircraft & its facilities & limitations, 21 disabilities & their special needs, Check-in, Security & screening, Airport Assistance, Prosthetic & orthotics screening, training & sensitization of staff, Dry cell & wet battery operated wheelchairs, ambulift/shoots, on-board assistance & briefing, wheelchair/mobility equipment in cargo, interline transfer, issues with smaller aircraft, safety & emergency mechanism, disembarking, wheelchair/mobility equipment retrieval, baggage collection, Wheelchair/mobility equipment damage claim/repair or alternative, data maintenance of travelers with disabilities, use of right terminology and grievance.
Supporting Organisations/ Stakeholders:
1. Ms. Jeeja Ghosh, IICP, Kolkata
2. Mr. Rajive Raturi, Adv Ms. Tanya, Human Rights Law Network
3. Mr. Muralidharan, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
4. Mr. Deepak Krishna Sharma, Sense International India
5. Ms. Suvarna Raj and Mr. Pradeep Raj (Para athletes)
6. Dr. Satendra Singh, University College of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
7. Mr. Lalit Narayan, PDDUIPH
8. Mr. George Abraham, Eyeway
9. Ms. Shalini Khanna, Ms. Amarjeet Kaur & Ms. Karuna Kumar, NAB India-Centre for Blind Women, Delhi
10. Mr. Nekram Upadhyay, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre
11. Mr. Hector Ravinder Dutt, Association of Spinal Educators & Allied Professionals
12. Mr. Piyush Chanana & Mr. Vikas Upadhyay, Assistive Technologies Lab, IIT Delhi
13. Ms. Smriti Shankar, Muskaan, Delhi
14. Ms. Vaishnavi Jayakumar, The Banyan
15. Prof. V.S. Sunder, Disability Rights Alliance
16. Mr. Jignesh Shah, Freedom Wheels Enterprises, Gujarat
17. Mr. Mohammad Faisal Nawaz, Disability Activist
18. Ms. Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder-Chairperson, Svayam, Mr. Navin Nayan, Mr. Anwar Huda
19. Mr. Samuel Mani, Disability Activist & Entrepreneur
20. Mr. Pankaj Sinha, Pace4India
21. Ms. Ruma Roka, Noida Deaf Society
22. Prof. Anil Kumar Aneja, All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB)
23. Ms. Amba Salelkar, Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice
24. Mr. Rajesh Bhatia & Ms. Smiti Bhatia, Activist for Dignified Security Procedures for Persons with Disabilities
25. Mr. TMN Deepak Nathan, D3M
26. Mr. Nilesh Singit, Consultant & Disability Rights Activist, Mumbai
27. Ms. Smitha Sadasivan, Disability Rights Alliance
28. Ms. Merry Barua, Action for Autism, Delhi
A final set of recommendations for issuing a fresh/revised CAR (Civil Aviation Requirements) by the DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation) and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) by the BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security of India) was finally submitted by Svayam Team on behalf of all the contributing stakeholders to Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot, Hon’ble Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment on 14 December 2018 in presence of Ms. Dolly Chakrabarty, Joint Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities for their further action.
The Hon’ble Minister reassured that his Ministry is conscious of the problems faced by person with disabilities during flying and they would take this up with the concerned ministry for resolving the issues.
Here is a coverage by The NewsWorld of the event: