27-Nov-2012, The Hindu
CHENNAI: The Asok Kumar Committee, which examined ways to make air travel hassle-free for persons with disabilities and reduced mobility, has assessed the situation in airports across the country and made recommendations to ease their travel travails.
The committee was constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to review the existing Civil Aviation Requirements on Carriage by Air of Persons with Disability and/or Persons with Reduced Mobility (CAR), examine best practices in the world and present a detailed set of guidelines to improve the experience.
The report, which was ready in October, highlights the need to bring in amendments to the existing CAR and covers other important areas hitherto not covered.
“What we have tried to do is to make air travel comfortable for all and with dignity,” says Mr. Asok Kumar, chairperson of the committee. “With every step there are numerous difficulties if you put yourself in the shoes of persons with disabilities, and different agencies are constantly shifting responsibilities. We have addressed all that.”
It has been recommended to clearly allocate responsibility between airports and airlines to avoid delays and inconvenience and standardise equipment and facilities in consultation with government departments overseeing implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act. Internal audits should be introduced to ensure that assistive devices are available in good condition and persons handling these are well trained.
The draft, which is being circulated for comments, insists that responsibilities be fixed on each stakeholder — not just airport and airlines, but agents, ticketing websites, airport operator and CISF.
A complaints resolution officer to deal with these issues relating to persons with disabilities must be appointed at each airport. An ombudsman should be appointed to settle complaints between different service providers and passengers.
A comprehensive disabled — friendly airport design has also been drawn up, according to committee member Rahul Cherian Jacob of the Inclusive Planet, Centre for Disability, Law and Policy.
The committee has urged the Ministry to ensure compliance of recommendations within three years at major airports, and then at others in a phased manner.
Significantly, it has built into the recommendations penal provisions for all violators, including private airlines