‘Get Up From Your Wheelchair Or Miss Your Flight’

Posted on July 19, 2016 in #Access4All, Society

By Merril Diniz:

“Get up from your wheelchair or else miss your flight,” disability rights activist Javed Abidi was told during a security check at Delhi’s international airport. Suvarna Raj, a paralympian was forced to do the same. Such incidents are not few and far between.

In fact, several negative perceptions impede the lives of persons with disabilities. One being that they are incapable of travelling without an escort, as was the case of Mumbai resident Victor Rodrigues (who uses a crutch), whose train ticket was not only cancelled, he was also fined the same amount as a person travelling without a ticket! Another common perception is that children with disabilities must study in segregated schools, and cannot cope with their non-disabled peers. If that was the case, how could Ira Singhal have topped the civil services exams?

Yet, time and again, at workplaces, educational institutes or in public spaces, a person with a disability is subject to recurring insensitivity, simply because our systems are not geared to be accessible. However, dissent against this treatment is growing, and to gauge the sentiments of people, we posed this question on our Facebook page.

In response, we received some hard hitting perspectives from a cross-section of people.

Nipun Malhotra
Co-Founder & CEO, Nipman Foundation

I don’t have an answer to the ‘WHY’ but I do feel it’s the world that’s a poorer place with it treating PWDs unfairly in public spaces – just imagine the Helen Kellers, Stephen Hawkings and Beethovens, we might have missed out on because of lack of opportunities and discrimination.

I’m glad you’ve also specifically covered challenges faced while flying. Travelling with a battery-operated wheelchair is always a nightmare for me – security throws up new challenges every time. I think every frequently flying Indian with a disability has been deboarded/not been allowed to board a flight at some point in life.

Wilbur Fredrick Ticlo

Arrogance is the only mantra of the officials in position. With no control and proper implementation of guidelines laid out for our disabled brothers, sisters and children, it is a shame for our elected representatives who call themselves as saviours/lawmakers at this point of time. It is a sad day to regret and correction is a top priority.

Rupmani Chhetri
Works at HAQ: Centre for Child Rights & Founder of Informative News For Deaf Persons; Member of National Association of the Deaf

Equal access to public spaces is our human right, there is not a sign language interpreter visible in any events. It is very difficult for the deaf to manage in travelling, planes, flights and hospitals without a sign language interpreter. There must also be an interpreter at police stations. Also in education. Or else how can we communicate? Accessibility is our human right!!!!

Neerja Sharma Khurana

Disability is not a phenomenon that is linked to a specific individual. Everyone in the universe is liable to get this disability either due to birth, accident or old age. Today, you are looking to someone with hatred, sympathy or any other emotion but tomorrow you can be the victim. So, think twice before being insensitive. You have to, you must, make India Accessible, because it can make your tomorrow also accessible.

Rahul Rawal
Operations Manager – Consulting Delivery at Aon Hewitt

Well, I haven’t travelled by air till now but I know this much about myself that I won’t accept anything like that. My message to the airlines and the authorities is: if I’ve booked a ticket then I’ll fly otherwise get ready for a war, and and I mean it literally. For the fellow persons with disabilities: in our country, either you fight for your rights or you suffer. So, go for the fight instead.

Pradeep Raj
Disability Rights Advocate associated with United Nations & Accessible India Campaign; Founder of Association for Disabled People

We faced the same problem many times at IG International Airport. There are some guidelines and manuals for CISF and BCAS but they don’t follow them.

Shweta Kansal
Indian Sign Language Interpreter & Psychologist

It is very disappointing to see how people with any disability such as mental disorder, physical disability are mistreated in our country. We are already lagging behind in providing the services they deserve, at least we should cooperate and respect them from our end. I know many patients with mental disorders who are not treated well and the stigma that is attached to them that they refrain from seeking treatment. I think we all should stop being judgemental and stop showing pity. Each individual is different and we should respect that.

Latika Kapoor
Working professional & Retail Merchandiser – Golden Gown

Lack of facility is understood but lack of mature mentality is what raises my eyebrows every time. People around look at persons with disabilities as if they have landed from Mars. C’mon! Help instead of giving that strange stare.

Saurabh Goel

Accessibility should not just be limited to public spaces. It must be applied across private sector as well, with certain parameters applying. I think a separate disability universal ID must be introduced with a person’s data to identity his or her needs, specially when facing such situations!

Pallavi Roy

Transportation system is a big problem; it should be improved for disabled people and equal rights should be given. It is really sad that such people who behave like that really exist and it is in India. I think innovation is needed. Lots of NGOs are working but for their other needs. According to me travel agencies should come forward with the help of government to make a new transportation, which will provide equal access to all. Things will change if we create a space.

Abha Khetarpal Maurya
Founder – Cross The Hurdles

As long as we are treated a different from others…as long as we are addressed by different names like “Divyang”, “specially-abled”, “differently-abled”, etc., as long as such attitudinal barriers exist we would not be treated at par with everyone else. At some places we would be ridiculed, made fun of, and at others we would be hailed as heroes, super humans etc. Till then we would be treated in an unfair way.

Sujayendra Krishna Nellore

Our disabled friendliness is about as good as Ethiopia’s.

Garima Chamoli

It’s all centred around giving them the desired space and a sense of comfort, at which most of us have failed endlessly. The movement becomes tough and people act like aliens. We really need to sit and build up ideas that shall enable our disabled friends to stop facing such stigma 🙂

Vinayana Khurana
Delhi University student

Still there are people who think – why do families go on vacations with their child having a disability? There is extreme unfair treatment of a person on a wheelchair in public spaces. The one question that always disturbs me is – “why have you brought her here?” This is more than insensitivity!!

Parvinder Singh
Campaigner working on social change and disability issues

The answer to this is linked to two interrelated aspects. First, is the prevailing mindset and attitude that disregard the diversity and universality of needs, where each and every member of society has same rights as the more visible majority. The second is how the planning decisions and policy frameworks are made from a very narrow perspective, which is only focused on a selected group. In other words, if during security screenings at airports, the staff is insensitive to the needs of personal safety and privacy of travellers with disabilities, it reflects a social conditioning where the security staff would have had limited or no interaction with people with disabilities and most likely while being trained would not have been oriented towards the risks like asking a wheelchair user to be moved. In fact, when one looks at the so-called special services you get a sense of the combination of mindsets and policy myopia, the access in public places, the water dispensers, the lack of designated parking and elevators without audio announcements. This also extends to how we design everything else including policies related to entitlements.

Meera Sharma

This is really true. People’s eyes start staring and chasing the person on the wheelchair. This is very uncomfortable and unfair.

Sandhiyan Thilagavathy

Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see, hear, walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love?

These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.

Sita Lakshmi

Every individual has the right to enjoy life, study and earn his livelihood. In India, disability is looked upon as a burden or with sympathy. They are emotionally and morally strong. We need not display our emotions. Create facilities and empower them. See the difference.

If you have strong views on the inaccessibility in our society for persons with disabilities, please write in with your experiences and perspectives, and join in the fight for #Access4All.

Featured image is a photograph of Javed Abidi.
Banner image credit: zeevveez/Flickr.