V Ayyappan, TNN | Feb 28, 2012, 03.54AM IST
CHENNAI: Flying has become a painful experience for disabled people
and senior citizens, aggrevated by the lack of infrastructure and an
abundance of archaic laws.
While several airports including the Chennai airport don't have enough
aerobridges, ambulifts and wheel chairs to shift such people into the
aircraft and out of it, the Aircraft Rules, 1937 bans people with
epilepsy or psychological disorders from flying. It was under this
rule that Jeeja Ghosh, 42, was forced out of the SpiceJet flight
Passengers complain that airlines hide under these rules to justify
preventing some elderly patients to travel. In the case of Ghosh, a
cerebral palsy patient, the airlines didn't understand that her
disorder is not listed under the rules.
The director general of civil aviation's civil aviation requirements
Section 3 defines a disabled person as whose mobility when using
transport is reduced due to any physical disability, intellectual
disability or impairment, or any other cause of disability, or age. It
suggests that airlines should provide all assistance to such
passengers without additional charge. But civil aviation in India is
largely governed by Aircraft Rules 1937.
S Namburajan, state secretary of TN Association of Rights of
Differently-Abled and Care-givers, says pilots use Section 24A of the
Aircraft Rules 1937 to evict disabled passengers. "No person shall
knowingly carry or permit to be carried, or connive at the carriage
of, a person suffering from any mental disorder or epilepsy in any
aircraft,'' says the section.
Those with physical disabilities have other set of woes. Aerobridges
or ambulifts are often not used to board or disembark passengers. And
airlines are not willing to go the extra mile and request for an
aerobridge or ambulift if they have disabled passengers on board
because they will have to pay to use these facilities.
Airports at Chennai, Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore do not have enough
wheelchairs, aerobridges or ambulifts. If there are wheel chairs,
passengers are forced to wait - inside the aircraft after arrival or
at the terminal to board - till a ground handling staff brings the
chair. "Disabled passengers are not allowed to use their own
wheelchairs because of security reasons in spite of the fact that
Disabilities Act says that aides used by a disabled person should be
considered as part of the body'', says Namburajan.
The Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) last month took up the
matter with DGCA. "We have told DGCA that wheelchair passengers are
roughly handled,'' said APAI president D Sudhakara Reddy. He said
Chennai airport increased the charge for ambulift from 3,000 to 5,000
Chennai airport has modern low-floor buses that can be tilted to roll
in a wheelchair, but all airlines do not use these buses. An official
said it is not possible to provide aerobridges for all airlines
because traffic has gone up.
Dr P Vyasamoorthy, 30 Gruhalakshmi Colony Secunderabad 500015 Ph
040-27846631 / 9490804278.