Not having enough rights to access basic necessities is not really the case where the differently-abled have been discriminated against. The recent case of Sudha Chandran being asked to take off her prosthetic limb for security check-in at Chennai airport was disturbing.
After posting this instance on social media, the renowned Bharatanatyam dancer received immense support from her fans and well-wishers online. Right after the incident, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued new guidelines to make airports and flights more accessible and relaxing for persons with disabilities. In the new draft, differently-abled passengers can notify the airline about their complete requirement 48 hours before the scheduled departure so that the carrier can make necessary arrangements. Around 2.68 crore differently-abled individuals in India, are struggling to fulfill basic needs like education, healthcare due to the lack of developed infrastructure in India.
After the recent case, the Central Government is trying to make airports accessible to make it easier for Differently abled people across the country to have ease of travel. The staff shall undergo an enhanced disability awareness training program through which they will encounter challenges and ways to assist persons with disabilities.
Facilities can be offered through utilizing technology like AI and machine learning for example before checking in, tech-enabled systems like the virtual reality experience of the airport environment can be introduced to enable ease of travel for the differently-abled individual. Fully trained staff especially those who empathize with the situation of the differently-abled can be introduced and can also be motivated to offer keen attention to the requirements of the differently-abled individuals.
Other facilities that can be introduced for differently-abled at the airport would be:
- Fully Accessible Campus for Visually Impaired, and for people with mobility restrictions.
- Well trained staff who are fully aware of the situation of differently-abled passengers.
- Special attention given to those with prosthetics and training offered to remove the prosthetic limbs.
- Female staff for assisting female passengers especially those who are pregnant.
- Passengers can request special assistance at the time of booking a ticket with the airlines.
- Passenger can upload their disability certificate during online booking as proof of their condition and also suggest the airlines and airport security as of how much assistance they will need.
- A toll-free Helpline with designated managerial staff/security officer for answering all queries and complaints of the differently-abled
Special arrangements to the person with differently-abled such as, Wheelchair, Towing assistance for appliances, Baggage assistance, Accessible toilets, A designated caretaker if the passenger is travelling alone and needs constant assistance, Allowance to carry battery-operated assistive appliance or oxygen cylinder as per their condition. At the same time, doctor's presence at the airport should be made available with specially trained staff to assist people with disabilities.
Many times, differently-abled individuals encounter problems with seating arrangements. To solve this, aisle seats must be allocated for travel ease of mobility, adjoining seats with their caretakers and extra space to accommodate assistive devices can play a big role for the differently-abled person.
Introduction of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality or some more technology can ease the access and ability of travel for the differently-abled. Having staff that is trained and defined to show empathy can play a bigger role. There must also be loyalty cards or points that can be given to differently-abled individuals to encourage them to travel more frequently. Boarding and off-boarding formalities with special attention given by the crew members during and after the flights can play a big role. All in all, it's not about how someone is treated, it is always about the experience that makes it memorable for a person to take things forward.