July 22, 2008

European Blind Union on Air Travel in the EU

As I prepare to fly to India to deliver a series of workshops on disability to the travel industry the following bulletin came in from the European Blind Union. With such common sense affirmations of the right to travel by people of all abilities it become all the more important that all tourist destination nations abandon discriminatory practices if they wish to participate in the profits of the growing seniors and disabled traveler market:

Over the past ten years the European Blind Union has been working to improve travel by air for blind and partially sighted, deaf blind and blind people with additional disabilities. As a result of our work, we are pleased to inform you that from 26 July 2008, the new Air Regulations come into operation at all airports throughout Europe.

To ensure these regulations work, we need your help in monitoring them at your local airport, to find out if they have in place, their staff with disability awareness training.

This must include the special requirements of training staff in the needs of blind and partially sighted people, which should include guiding a blind person, making sure that a wheelchair is not offered as an automatic help but only offered if the blind person has difficulty in walking.

Following are the parts of the regulations that you need to be aware of, and which we would like you to monitor for us. If you require a full set of the regulations they will be available from the Federation's office, address as above.

This summary is based on Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air.

Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have the same right as all other citizens to free movement, freedom of choice and non-discrimination. This applies to air travel as to other areas of life.

Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility should therefore be accepted for carriage and not refused transport on the grounds of their disability or lack of mobility, except for reasons which are justified on the grounds of safety and prescribed by law. Before accepting reservations from disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility, air carriers, their agents and tour operators should make all reasonable efforts to verify whether there is a reason which is justified on the grounds of safety and which would prevent such persons being accommodated on the flights concerned.

In order to give disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility opportunities for air travel comparable to those of other citizens, assistance to meet their particular needs should be provided at the airport as well as on board aircraft, by employing the necessary staff and equipment. In the interests of social inclusion, the persons concerned should receive this assistance without additional charge.

Assistance given at airports situated in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies should, among other things, enable disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility to proceed from a designated point of arrival at an airport to an aircraft and from the aircraft to a designated point of departure from the airport, including embarking and disembarking. These points should be designated at least at the main entrances to terminal buildings, in areas with check-in counters, in train, light rail, metro and bus stations, at taxi ranks and other drop-off points, and in airport car parks. The assistance should be organised so as to avoid interruption and delay, while ensuring high and equivalent standards throughout the Community and making best use of resources, whatever airport or air carrier is involved.

To achieve these aims, ensuring high quality assistance at airports should be the responsibility of a central body. As managing bodies of airports play a central role in providing services throughout their airports, they should be given this overall responsibility.

Managing bodies of airports may provide the assistance to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility themselves. Alternatively, in view of the positive role played in the past by certain operators and air carriers, managing bodies may contract with third parties for the supply of this assistance.

In deciding on the design of new airports and terminals, and as part of major refurbishments, managing bodies of airports should, where possible, take into account the needs of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility. Similarly, air carriers should, where possible, take such needs into account when deciding on the design of new and newly refurbished aircraft.

All essential information provided to air passengers should be provided in alternative formats accessible to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, and should be in at least the same languages as the information made available to other passengers.

Where wheelchairs or other mobility equipment or assistive devices are lost or damaged during handling at the airport or during transport on board aircraft, the passenger to whom the equipment belongs should be compensated, in accordance with rules of International, Community and National Law.

Complaints concerning assistance given at an airport should be addressed to the body or bodies designated for the enforcement of this Regulation.

Member States should lay down penalties applicable to infringements of this Regulation and ensure that those penalties are applied. The penalties, which could include ordering the payment of compensation to the person concerned, should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

An air carrier or its agent or a tour operator shall not refuse, on the grounds of disability or of reduced mobility, to accept a reservation for a flight departing from or arriving at an airport to which this Regulation applies.

An air carrier or its agent shall make publicly available, in accessible formats and in at least the same languages as the information made available to other passengers, the safety rules that it applies to the carriage of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, as well as any restrictions on their carriage or on that of mobility equipment due to the size of aircraft.

A tour operator shall make such safety rules and restrictions available for flights included in package travel, package holidays and package tours which it organises, sells or offers for sale.

The managing body of an airport shall, taking account of local conditions, designate points of arrival and departure within the airport boundary or at a point under the direct control of the managing body, both inside and outside terminal buildings, at which disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility can, with ease, announce their arrival at the airport and request assistance.

The points of arrival and departure shall be clearly signed and shall offer basic information about the airport, in accessible formats.

Air carriers, their agents and tour operators shall take all measures necessary for the receipt, at all their points of sale in the territory of the Member States to which the Treaty applies, including sale by telephone and via the Internet, of notifications of the need for assistance made by disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility.

When an air carrier or its agent or a tour operator receives a notification of the need for assistance at least 48 hours before the published departure time for the flight, it shall transmit the information concerned at least 36 hours before the published departure time for the flight: (a) to the managing bodies of the airports of departure, arrival and transit, and (b) to the operating air carrier, if a reservation was not made with that carrier, unless the identity of the operating air carrier is not known at the time of notification, in which case the information shall be transmitted as soon as practicable.

As soon as possible after the departure of the flight, an operating air carrier shall inform the managing body of the airport of destination, if situated in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies, of the number of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility on that flight requiring assistance and of the nature of that assistance.

When a disabled person or person with reduced mobility arrives at an airport for travel by air, the managing body of the airport shall be responsible for ensuring the provision of the assistance in such a way that the person is able to take the flight for which he or she holds a reservation, provided that the notification of the person's particular needs for such assistance has been made to the air carrier or its agent or the tour operator concerned at least 48 hours before the published time of departure of the flight. This notification shall also cover a return flight, if the outward flight and the return flight have been contracted with the same air carrier.

Where use of a recognised assistance dog is required, this shall be accommodated provided that notification of the same is made to the air carrier or its agent or the tour operator in accordance with applicable national rules covering the carriage of assistance dogs on board aircraft, where such rules exist.

If no notification is made, the managing body shall make all reasonable efforts to provide the assistance in such a way that the person concerned is able to take the flight for which he or she holds a reservation.

The assistance provided shall, as far as possible, be appropriate to the particular needs of the individual passenger.

Air carriers and airport managing bodies shall ensure that all their personnel, including those employed by any sub-contractor, providing direct assistance to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have knowledge of how to meet the needs of persons having various disabilities or mobility impairments. They should also provide disability-equality and disability-awareness training to all their personnel working at the airport who deal directly with the travelling public, including that upon recruitment, all new employees attend disability-related training and that personnel receive refresher training courses when appropriate.

National Federation of the Blind of the UK
http://www.nfbuk.org

Posted by rollingrains at July 22, 2008 01:58 AM