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Airports are no haven for the disabled

Airports are no haven for the disabled


Speaking at the Airports Company South Africa Disability Conference in Johannesburg, disabled people made known the many difficulties they have experienced.

It was claimed that airport assistants expect visually impaired people to pay for their help, that the ramps are too steep for wheelchairs and that disabled people often miss flights because assistants forget to fetch them. Architect and consultant Phillip Thompson, who is in a wheelchair, told the conference that since 2004 he had done free work for Acsa, training staff on how to cater for disabled customers.

“It’s all window dressing,” he said. “The airports company should be taken to the Human Rights Commission.”Thompson said there was a high turnover of staff at companies who assisted disabled people as the employees were often “rude and unhelpful”.

One man told the conference that an assistant he encountered three weeks ago had no idea how to lift him out of his wheelchair and onto the plane seat. Head of the SA Disability Alliance, Ari Seirlis, said all airlines except Kulula expected people in wheelchairs to be put onto planes by trucks.

Seirlis said it was against the Equality Act to not allow people in wheelchairs to use the airbridges. President of the South African National Taxi Council July Msiza admitted that many taxi operators avoided picking up people with wheelchairs as disabled people took a lot of time to get into a taxi.

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