Persons With Disabilites (PWDs) have called on stakeholders on aviation industry to mainstream needs of Persons With Disabilites in their policies and Standard Operations Procedures (SOPs).
This call was made on Thursday in Abuja during 2nd STAKEHOLDERS FORUM ON ACCESSIBLE AVIATION with theme:
UPSCALING SUSTAINABLE AND ACHIEVABLE POLICIES ADDRESSING SERVICE DELIVERY TO PWD IN THE AVIATION SECTOR organized by Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment (CARE) as part of their Accessible Aviation project supported by Oxfam Voice.
The Chief Executive Director, CARE, Dr. Chike Okogwu in his opening remark said that Accessible Aviation project which is going to an end have achieved a lot of milestones.
“NCAA have mandated all airlines to inculcate in their websites an option to indicate that you are a person with disability and the kind of assistance you need. The airlines have appointed handler companies to ensure that PWDs are well taking care of while boarding and disembarking”.
He also said that FAAN have allocated a place for CARE staff at Abuja airport to ensure that CARE have personnels on ground to assist PWDs.
“FAAN also ensured that there is special area in all airports for a person with disability to be taking care of”.
Also NCAA ensured that their Customer Protection Service is extended to PWDs and they are making sure that PWDs are well taking care of at the airports.
“FAAN, went further to give a directive for Persons With Reduced Mobility(PRM) to park close to the entrance of the airport, all that a person with reduced mobility requires is to inform the security that he or she is a person with reduced mobility and they will direct him or her where to park but it is not going to last long to avoid disrupting other vehicular movement for long”.
“FAAN have also create a parking lot well marked for PWDs at Abuja airport”.
He informed that CARE have come to the end of the first stage of the intervention and we are satisfied with what we have achieved so far, the story is no longer the same for PWDs at the airports.
“We are not yet where we should be but we are not where we used to be. It is work in progress and there is assurances that what CARE have started will be sustained. We have gotten assurances from National Commission for Persons With Disabilites (NCPWD) to absorb CARE staff at the airport and continue with the project”.
He stated funding to be the challenge of CARE continuing the project but they are still looking for avenues for funding with strong belief that soon there would be more funding and CARE intention of expanding the project will be materialized.
One of the representative of FAAN, Abubakar Aliyu speaking on behalf of the team said that FAAN have recognized the Disability Act, and as a result of that, FAAN has taking time to educate their staff on the rights of persons with reduced mobility especially when they are at the airports across the country.
“Among the airports, Abuja Airport has taken the lead but we are working to see that other airports meet up. In Abuja airport, we have created special parking lots well marked for persons with reduced mobility, and we also have special lounges for persons with reduced mobility”.
Speaking further, he said that they are supervising and coordinating airlines to ensure that they don’t deviate in ensuring that persons with reduced mobility and persons with disabilites in general are properly taken care of.
We have procure buses convey people to the terminal but we will look into it to see how they can be made accessible for PRM and in Abuja airport, FAAN procured about 10 wheelchairs which they normally make available for PRM use when the airlines are failing in making such provision.
FAAN have also instructed the security personnels in the airports to respect Persons With Disabilites, because of insecurity, there is extent the security could allow passengers but PWDs are not subjected to such restrictions upon their arrival at the airports.
Some stakeholders present raised some issues that should be considered in the policies and SOP of FAAN and other stakeholders within the aviation industry.
Some issues raised are:
- There should be understanding that there are different types of disability and their needs different. The Deaf will need sign language interpreters at the airports or inscription posters or visual display all around the airports, the blind needs audio announcement and a guide within the airports, Persons With Physical Disabilites need wheelchairs, Ambi lift, stair climber wheelchair, ramps, Persons With Albinism need the inscription or direction within the airports written boldly, umbrellas while boarding under the sun.
- There is concern about parking lots meant for PWDs being occupied by other people and not enough parking lots have been created, they asked for more to be created and demand for penalty for those who will park at the designated parking lot for persons with disabilites.
- The blind persons raised concern about their luggages which they find it difficult to identify, they plead for separation of their luggages with others for easy identification.
- There is concern about the attitude of security personnels at the airports who often times look down on PWDs and subject them to some ugly experiences. They suggested periodic training of the staff on how to deal with persons with disabilites at the airport.
- There is concern about the newly procured buses which they said doesn’t meet the requirement to guarantee access for wheelchairs users. They are of the opinion that FAAN would have ordered for wheelchair friendly buses.
- FAAN should advise airlines to acquire Ambi lifts and stair climber wheelchair to avoid manhandling persons with disabilites while boarding especially women with disabilites who are being violated on the process.
Members of FAAN at meeting (Nanloh Nuhu, FAAN OPS, Abubakar Aliyu, FAAN Servicom, Geoffrey Yeshima, FAAN OPS) assured the stakeholders that their concerns would be looked into and pledge to be in any meeting to deliberate on the concerns of PWDs that should be incorporated into policies and Standard Operations Procedure (SOP) of Stakeholders in the Aviation Industry.
We learnt that CARE will bring together stakeholders in the aviation industry, NCPWD to chat way forward towards Implementation of Disability Act as it affects air transportation.
The event witnessed the panel session which featured Adekunle Ade from Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Constance Onyemaechi from Women and Girls With Albinism Network, Aver Akighir from Hope Alive Possibilities Initiative, Martha from Abuja Association of the Deaf and Members of FAAN.
The event was facilitated by Comrade Christian Agbo, Executive Director, The Qualitative Magazine.