2012 Paralympics: No Chillax Over Disabled Passengers Rights
- Written by Roberto Castiglioni
The UK Government has had a chillax approach towards the rights of disabled passengers; this is no longer acceptable just ahead of the Paralympics.
Unsurprisingly, some people still lack the answer to the mother of all questions; what is Paralympics.
Few may know that the first Paralympics, then named 1948 International Wheelchair Games, took place on the opening day of the 1948 Olympic Games in London, UK. The first ever Paralympics athletes were British World War II wheelchair bound veterans.
Sixty four years on, London is about to host the Summer Paralympic Games, taking place between 29 August and 9 September 2012.
Despite the imminent arrival of scores of passengers with reduced mobility and other disabilities, there is reasonable doubt some services are far from ready to cope with such traffic.
London Heathrow airport and its services for disabled passengers will be under everybody's scrutiny. The Paralympics is not just about athletes; their families, friends, and supporters will be traveling along in those two weeks across August and September.
While it is reasonable to assume disabled athletes will receive professional assistance, there is concern other disabled passengers will have to endure Heathrow's sub-standard assistance.
"I am shocked that disabled passengers arriving at London Heathrow have to wait for wheelchairs to arrive up to 45 minutes," an employee working for an airline docking at Heathrow airport says.
Delays apart, disabled passengers traveling for the Summer Paralympics Games have nowhere to go if they think they should complain about the services Heathrow provides passengers with reduced mobility.
"Article 15 of EU regulation 1107/2006 entitles passengers who consider the Regulation to have been infringed to complain," Mark Hicks, Flight Connections and PRM Manager at Heathrow airport explains.
"We do want to make it as easy as possible for passengers to get in touch with us if they have comments or concerns, hence the link on the website for passenger feedback." However, said information is only available on the London Heathrow website, posing a challenge for a passenger inside Heathrow's Terminals to seek help on the spot.
The chillax approach of the British Government adds to the problems disabled passengers may encounter when in need to complain about airports or airlines.
Funding cuts to Equality and Human Rights Commission led them to unilaterally decide to stop providing dispute handling services to disabled passengers. Few weeks ago the Home Office said the key resource will be transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority in Autumn.
The Paralympics take place when this service of paramount importance is de facto suspended, leaving disabled passengers with no access to the complaint process.
The British Government must take decisive action and correct this situation ahead of the Paralympics 2012, to avoid embarrassing the United Kingdom.