Via Scott Rains. A little outdated but relevant nonetheless.
Tiger Airways deaf to discrimination claims
Article from: Herald Sun
Jane Metlikovec with AAP
April 11, 2008 01:41pm
THE advent of low-cost airlines and zealous interpretation of safety regulations has led to discrimination against people with disabilities, experts say.
A group of deaf people from Melbourne has launched a discrimination case against Tiger Airways after the budget carrier insisted they travel with a carer last month.
But federal disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes says the problem isn’t limited to Tiger.
“There have been endemic problems in airlines over the past few years where people with disabilities have been refused carriage because of their disability,” Mr Innes told Sky News.
“The introduction of low-cost airlines has been one of the reasons.”
Mr Innes said they often applied unnecessarily strenuous or zealous interpretations of airline safety regulations and their staff weren’t trained well enough.
“What you get sometimes are individual decisions which are outside airline policies,” he said.
In 2006, Virgin Blue was forced to back down over its policy requiring wheelchair-bound passengers to be accompanied by a carer. It’s currently fighting a federal court case over alleged discrimination, Mr Innes said.
Last week, Mr Innes co-chaired a forum with the parliamentary secretary for disabilities services, Bill Shorten, to address the issue of how disabled people are treated by airlines.
The forum included the main airlines, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Government representatives.
Mr Shorten said the Government was concerned that discrimination was taking place “in the name of safety”.
“But the reality is most people with impairment can understand (safety) instructions and fly,” Mr Shorten told Sky News.
Mr Shorten said Tiger was wrong to insist deaf passengers travelled with a carer.
“People who are deaf can still see and all emergency safety briefings have pictorial representations,” he said.
“Just because people are deaf doesn’t mean that they’re stupid.”
He said Qantas had the best policy: “If you can’t self-medicate and self-see then you need a carer”.
But Mr Shorten said individual flight attendants were not to blame.
Better training and awareness about disability was needed, he said.
“The airline industry needs to reach out to people with disability.”
Public servant Adrian Doyle, 38, said he was left humiliated in Tasmania last month when he, his wife Julie, and two friends, Robyn and Steve May, who are all in their 30s, were told they could board a Tiger Airways plane only if they organised – and bought a seat – for a sign language translator.
A spokesman for Tiger Airways, Matt Hobbs, told the Herald Sun the policy was in place to protect the safety of all passengers in case of emergency.
Mr Hobbs said Tiger was not looking at revising its policy to let fully capable deaf adults travel without an aide.
“The carer issue is a standard practice, and it is there to protect the safety of all passengers, and without it, the safety of passengers could be jeopardised,” he said.
But Mr Hobbs rang back five minutes later saying the Tiger policy was actually to allow deaf people to travel without a carer.
Tiger would now address Mr Doyle and his travel companions.
“We are happy to apologise to the people involved for the inconvenience and embarrassment they might have experienced,” Mr Hobbs said.
Mr Doyle, of Nunawading, has filed the complaint against Tiger with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission under the Disability Discrimination Act.
The group was eventually permitted to take their seats on the March 4 flight from Launceston to Melbourne, after a stewardess told them they would not be allowed to travel alone again.
“The stewardess wrote on a piece of paper to me that we all require a carer on a plane because of our ‘deafness’, which sure floored me,” Mr Doyle said.
“My friends had steam coming out of their ears, and my wife was dumbfounded.
“I then took the paper and wrote that they had insulted us by saying that we require a carer, since we have all travelled a lot, and never encountered any problems with our disabilities.”
Mr Doyle double-checked the Tiger policy over the phone when he returned home, and was again told that he would be required to have a carer next time.
“I am shocked and stunned that Tiger allow themselves to discriminate against deaf people,” he said.
Anti-discrimination consultant Julie Phillips said the original Tiger policy appeared to be out of the dark ages.
“Deaf people fly every day – they do not need carers. It’s ridiculous,” Ms Phillips said.
Virgin Blue and Jetstar both allow deaf passengers to travel without carers.