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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Explained: What are the new draft guidelines for making air travel easier for people with disabilities?

Inviting comments and suggestions for improvement, the Civil Aviation Ministry has given the public three weeks, following which the final list of guidelines will be issued.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 28, 2021 8:13:00 am
FlightAt an airport in India during the Covid-19 pandemic. (File photo)

In an attempt to make air travel easier for people with disabilities, the Civil Aviation Ministry on Tuesday issued a list of “draft accessibility standards and guidelines”. These guidelines lay down some dos and don’ts for airlines and airport operators to follow to minimise the hurdles faced by disabled people while they are travelling.

Inviting comments and suggestions for improvement, the Civil Aviation Ministry has given the public three weeks, following which the final list of guidelines will be issued.

We take a look at some of the Union Ministry’s proposed guidelines.

But first, why has the Civil Aviation ministry proposed these guidelines in the first place?

These draft guidelines come nearly a week after actor and dancer Sudha Chandran took to social media to share the ordeal she faced at the airport, where she was asked to remove her prosthetic limb every time she passed through security check. She appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue a card to people with prosthetic limbs so that they can avoid a ‘grilling’ at airports by security agencies.

“Good evening, this is a very personal note that I want to tell to our dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji, this is an appeal to the central government, I am Sudhaa Chandran, an actress and dancer by profession, who has danced with an artificial limb and created history and made my country very proud of me,” she said in her post.

“Every time that I go on my professional visits, each time, am stopped at the airport and when I request them at the security, to the CISF officers that please do an ETD (Explosive Trace Detector) for my artificial limb, they still want me to remove my artificial limb and show it to them. Is this humanly possible, Modi ji? Is this what our country is talking about? Is this the respect that a woman gives to another woman in our society?” she asked.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sudhaa Chandran (@sudhaachandran)

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has since issued an apology on social media. They promised that they would look into the matter and “examine why the lady personnel concerned requested Ms. Sudhaa Chandran to remove the prosthetics.”

What are the government’s proposed policies?

As per the draft guidelines, airport operators must now make arrangements to ensure that people with special needs are screened in a way that keeps the “dignity and privacy of the passenger in mind”.

During the screening of prosthetics, airport security may use X-ray, explosive trace detection devices or visual checks according to their requirement, the guidelines noted.

But to ensure their privacy, a differently-abled passenger, who has a prosthetic limb, will first be asked to pass through the door frame metal detector and then escorted to a private screening point, where they will be made to sit comfortably.

“A prosthetic appliance which does not have any foam padding cover under which any weapon or explosive can be concealed and in which the steel rod of the appliance is clearly visible may be screened by visual inspection and ETD checks only, without removing it,” the guidelines state.

Only in rare cases, where security personnel believe that thorough screening is an absolute requirement, will these passengers be asked to remove their prosthetic limbs for X-ray screening.  In these situations, however, they will have to record why they felt screening could not be avoided.

Passengers with external devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, spinal stimulators, bone growth stimulators and ostomies, will have to disconnect these devices before X-ray screening. Under most circumstances, a passenger can conduct a self-pat-down of these devices followed by ETD screening of his or her hands, the list of guidelines added.

Around 48 hours prior to their scheduled departure, passengers with disabilities should inform the airline about their requirements so that the carrier can make necessary arrangements.

For passengers that require to check-in their wheelchairs, the airline must ensure that the wheelchair is sent to the baggage make-up area with a service partner to avoid any damage, it noted.

“Airlines should ensure that a disability awareness training is conducted for new hires and ensure periodic refreshers are conducted for all staff to reiterate policies and standard operating procedures on customer assistance with different types of disabilities,” it mentioned.

Coaches for transporting passengers to and from airplanes must also be made wheelchair-friendly. Low floor coaches or ramps should be used for comfortable boarding or debarring of wheelchair users.

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