Among the most disgraceful things India must own up to, one is an enveloping ignorance regarding disability among its non-disabled society. A woman who flies to different places quite often in spite of cerebral palsy to campaign for the rights of challenged people was harassed when trying to board an aeroplane at Kochi on her return from a conference of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled. She was allowed to board only after her companion had signed an indemnity bond. According to the rules, no such bond or certificate is necessary unless the passenger is suffering from a condition that may worsen on the flight or endanger others.
Such experiences are deeply humiliating, a feeling that another passenger, who was not permitted to fly on another airline because of disability not even two years ago, had described vividly. Ironically, the airline that demanded the indemnity bond claims to have ramps in most airports for wheelchairs and stretchers, but how many airlines and airports in India can make a similar claim? Of equal weight is the training of staff, whether on the ground or in the air, with regard to information about disability, the relevant rules, as well as with regard to humane behaviour, professionalism and sensitiveness. India breeds a shockingly callous society. Airports all over the world have special arrangements for challenged people, as do public places and public transport, from libraries to buses. Only in India is it taken for granted that those challenged or with difficulties in movement will rot at home; they have no right to inhabit the spaces or make use of the facilities that are a part of the unchallenged personís everyday life. What happened at Kochi airport might be forgotten soon enough, particularly since the airlines apologized to the passenger, but incidents such as this one abruptly reveal the depth of Indiaís uneducated obliviousness of human rights. Humane behaviour has already been largely given up as a bad job.