‘We are first humans, male and female before we had different forms of disabilities’

Being a text of a Press statement by Grace Jerry, Executive Director Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) and Lois Auta, Executive Director, Cedar Seed Foundation, Patience Ogolo-Dickson Executive director AWWDI on the Ill-treatment of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) by local and international Airlines in Nigeria held on 1 November, 2019 in Abuja.

Firstly, we want to specially appreciate the time you all took out of your busy schedule to participate in this conference. I also want to welcome you all to this very important and necessary session, which particularly beams light on one of the social injustices persons with disabilities face in Nigeria especially in accessing means of transportation for business, study, conference, etc.

Over the years, Persons with disabilities have had to cope with a great deal of inconveniences and discomfort as passengers with disabilities from boarding to disembarking. The isle to the seats in the plane is not designed to accomadate wheel chairs/reduced mobility. As a result, their movement while on board is forcefully restricted.

Gratefully, PwDs are assisted to board first but they are forced to alight last after all other passengers regardless of how urgent the need may be.

Another wrong notions by airline operatives not allowing Passengers with Disabilities who use electric wheelchair to board/check is that the battery is an ‘explosive device’. However, in handling these wheelchairs, airline attendants have mistakenly or carelessly caused damages to their wheelchairs. That has been my personal experience on two different instances.

Lois Auta, Donald Unanka, Patience Ogolo, Barr. Catherine Edeh and Blessing Mary Ochido and many others have also suffered similar fate’ which most often leaves passengers with disabilities stranded and even frustrated on arrival at his or her destination.

It is also worthy to mention here that some airlines audaciously reject Passengers with Disabilities who may be travelling without an aid. Though this has been a usual experience over time, recently, it is as if this menace is becoming a regular occurrence. Hence, this press conference intended to draw attention of the stakeholders to this ugly precedent and monumental injustice to air Passengers with disabilities.

These are all collective stories that most PWDs in Nigeria encounter every time they are travelling by air. The Nigerian Disability Act 2019 provides that all means of transportation be made accessible with facilities that will guarantee that all PWDs use it with no difficulty.

RECOMMENDATIONS

This ill treatment of PWDs in Nigeria undermines our individual as well as collective dignity as humans. We cannot be subjected to these kinds’ treatments anymore. We therefore call on all local and international airlines in Nigeria to provide the following to ensure equality of treatment and non-discrimination against all PWDs in Nigeria:

  • All local and international airlines must provide LIFT TRUCKs to board PWDs into the aircraft, and provide same when disembarking.
  • All local airlines must provide Isle Chairs to convey PWDs especially those on wheelchairs to the seats on board the plane.
  • All airliners that have discriminated or subjected PWDs to ill treatments must offer an apology to Nigerian PWDs in both mainstream and social media platforms
  • Provide airlift FREE with no added fees. (Freky Andy been asked to pay for the use of an Ambu-lift in an African country).
  • All Passenger assistance services in NIGERIA should NEVER be paid for by persons needing assistance to board (PWDs, Medical reasons and The Elderly) (It should be declared in ALL AIRPORTS and ALL AIRLINES in NIGERIA
  • Airport Authorities should scan personal wheelchairs but allow clients to use their chairs, until they board, as these are extensions of body function.
  • All airlines operating in NIGERIA must produce a technical directive for managing PWDs and passengers needing assistance as part of their official procedures. In addition, this directive cannot be made without all PWDs cluster inputs.
  • All airport and airline officials MUST be trained to handle Assistive travel including using the right terms, carrying procedures etc. Technical assistance can be provided for this BY organizations of persons with disabilities.
  • We request an overhaul of rusty and rickety airport wheelchairs, throw some of them away, they are old and bad, some have to breaks either.

– Airlines need to strengthen and synergize their communication system by way of connecting staff, captain & crew members. There seem to be a disconnect form the bookings, to the front desk and the cabin crew I attending to PWDs.

As PWDs, I believe we are first humans, male and female before we had different forms of disabilities. So each time you encounter us, understand that and treat us equally or provide all necessary accommodations that would enable us to enjoy every privilege and rights we paid for on your airline.

We sincerely urge all airlines to desist from similar acts going forward.

We will make litigations against any airline that maltreats, discriminates or marginalizes any PWD in Nigeria.

Thank you all for your time, have a good weekend.

Our struggle for an Inclusive Nigeria is just beginning.

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