Wednesday, 15 December 2009

Fix the raw airline deal for Australians with disability

With the release of the Australian Government’s Aviation White Paper today, Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, urged the government to ensure airlines and airports have self regulating access facilitation plans for equal treatment of people with disability in place by mid 2010, or face government regulation if they don’t.

“For many Australians with disability, flying is not the pleasant experience it should be,” said Commissioner Innes. "We have seen incidents of inappropriate and undignified treatment of people with disability by airlines feature in the media during the past month, and they are only the tip of the iceberg."

Commissioner Innes said these incidents had included paralympian, Kurt Fearnley, having to crawl through Brisbane airport when his wheelchair was taken from him, as well as people being stranded because of an airline’s refusal to allow a guide dog to travel.

"Airlines have been aware of problems experienced from check-in to check-out for several years, and some have been too slow in dealing with them." Commissioner Innes said. “The Government’s announcement on travel for passengers with disability, as part of its aviation white paper today, is therefore very welcome.”

Commissioner Innes said he congratulated the Australian Government for working, in partnership with the aviation industry and the disability community, to set up a process for the voluntary lodgement, by both airlines and airports, of Disability Access Facilitation Plans. He said these plans, to be made available on the Department of Transport website, will be a public promise, by airlines and airports, of how they will provide equal services for customers with disability.

Calling for these action plans to be lodged by mid 2010, Commissioner Innes said, "If this does not occur, or if their promises are not fulfilled, it will be time for government to regulate equal treatment”.

Mr Innes said there was absolutely no excuse for airlines and airports to have processes in place that make people with disability feel as if they were second class citizens.

Media contacts: Brinsley Marlay 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529