[AI] Widening access the European way

Rajesh Asudani rajeshasudani at rbi.org.in
Tue Aug 14 02:48:49 EDT 2007



In a rare but welcome move, the hindu has published the editorial on disability topic.

Widening access the European way 

The recent European Union Regulation forbidding airlines and tour operators from denying travel for passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility, besides
affirming the principle of anti-discrimination, also makes sound business sense. Persons with restricted mobility, among whom are the aged and those with
various temporary and permanent impairments, are said to make up about 10 per cent of the EU's population. The new rules are also a major assurance that
peopl e with limited mobility can take advantage of the benefits that have accrued from the EU's single market in air transport such as wider choices of
lower fares, carriers, and destinations. Under the new regime, turning down disabled passengers would be a violation except when it is warranted by safety
and such an exception must be justified under the law. Through another measure, effective July 2008, European airlines will be obliged to allow carriage
of wheelchairs and guide-dogs free of charge. 

The rights and safety of passengers have received high priority in the EU's transport policy in recent years and the aviation sector has been a leader in
extending disabled-friendly facilities. However, instances of unequal treatment have been reported from low-cost flight service providers, where the pressures
of cost-competitiveness often undermine compliance with standard access procedures. The new measure thus aims to ensure a more comprehensive provision
of service and uniform application of the anti-discrimination across the EU. In India, the 1995 law mandates equality of access to education, employment,
and mobility for the disabled. In its effective implementation, public awareness can improve and the deep-seated prejudices can be rooted out. Except for
some exemplary judicial directives relating to the use of wheelchairs by air passengers and access to public transport and educational institutions, the
law remains by and large on paper. Among the lessons policy-makers can learn from the European experience is that successful intervention in the area of
disability is predicated upon the effectiveness of measures in other spheres of public policy. The overall gains for the elderly, the terminally ill, women
and children from measures to improve access for the disabled make the case for proper enforcement of the law even stronger.



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