DGCA lays down the law for airlines on disabled passengers

The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued new civil aviation requirements for disabled passengers that will come into effect very shortly. "No airline shall refuse to carry physically challenged or incapacitated persons or persons with disabilities," as long as they "do not pose a threat" to the safety of other passengers or the evacuation procedure for the aircraft, the regulations say unambiguously.

Airlines are not be permitted to limit the "number or types" of disabled passengers on a particular flight, except "where required for operational reasons". The procedure for limiting disabled passengers will also be documented. Airlines will have to run "sensitisation and developing awareness" training programmes for their staff.

Rights groups stand up
Rights groups have been calling for clearer guidelines on the transportation requirements of disabled passengers after Rajeev Rajan — a cerebral palsy patient and activist with Vidyasagar, a non-governmental organisation for the disabled — was prevented from boarding an Air Sahara flight in Chennai on 18 June for failing to produce a medical certificate that he was fit to travel by air.

The DGCA had issued a first draft on 25 July on its website (http://dgca.nic.in), specifying the new guidelines for airlines and invited comments on the new recommendations. But Vidyasagar has said that the August 15 deadline did not give disabled rights groups enough time to respond to the recommendations. The organisation has written to the DGCA asking it to extend the deadline for implementing the new requirements.

Some analysts say the new requirements are "ambiguous, as the DGCA has used the word 'incapacitated' to define the disabled. They say terms such as 'incapacitated' and 'severe disability' have not been adequately defined.