The absence of stair lifts or ambulifts to help disabled passengers causes them considerable discomfort

Imagine being lifted in a chair all the way up to an aircraft from the ground, on the narrow staircase that leads up to most low cost carriers’ planes. Passengers feel a deep sense of discomfort and embarrassment and it’s quite tough on those carrying the chair. However, this is an experience disabled passengers have to face quite often.

While IndiGo has recently introduced stair lifts, most private carriers operate without such a facility, causing a great deal of agony to passengers.

“It is extremely scary every time we are carried to the aircraft when there is no aerobridge or ambulift. The problem is that only one or two airlines get the ambulift; for the others, we have to hire it at a high cost,” Smitha Sadasivan of Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) says. It costs anywhere between Rs. 3,000-5,000 to hire an ambulift.

“When other passengers can enter and exit the aircraft without paying for the ladder, why should we pay so much for this device? Isn’t this discrimination?” asks Meenakshi Balasubramanian, a person with locomotor impairment and an activist with Equals, a centre for promotion of social justice.

It does not help that not at all airports are equipped with ambulifts. “Most airlines don’t have the stair lift facility primarily because maintenance is expensive,” an official of Airports Authority of India (AAI) says.

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Longer travel times, jam-packed roads, inflationary ticket prices. Sounds familiar? Try out car pooling – it is actually fun taking to the road together.

While vehicle sharing is quite popular in Bangalore with several apps including ridingo, commuteeasy and carpooling, having a dedicated customer base, it is yet to catch up in Chennai.

Most car pooling groups in the city are confined to people working in the same office or the same area.

However, a few groups have bonded quite well. N.L. Govindan, who works in CPCL, and a member of the group that was started in 2003, says that commuting daily from Nanganallur to Manali is not only cost-prohibitive but could also cause health problems.

Prashanth Venkatesh, member, Bangalore-Chennai carpooling, says the group comprises 30 to 40 persons who are working in Bangalore and ride together to Chennai during weekends. Similarly Ridesharing Pondy-Chennai-Pondy on Facebook has a large commuter base.

(Reporting by Sunitha Sekar and R. Srikanth)

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