Dear handicapped, you are not allowed on board!

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Al-Jazirah

I FELT shame when I watched the video clip published by Dr. Wajdi Wazzan, undersecretary for the affairs of students with special needs and a member of the faculty of engineering at King Abdulaziz University, in which he apologized for not being able to participate in the higher education conference, which concluded in Riyadh on Saturday.

The reason he stated for his absence was that he was not allowed to board the airplane because he was wheelchair-bound and was not accompanied by an assistant.

This is unfortunate because it reflected a negative image on our national carrier toward a precious segment of society that is supposed to receive the utmost care from us. They could have at least allowed a member of the airline staff to travel with him. Denying a handicapped person the right to get on to an airplane is a statement that he is incapable.

This is a clear violation of the rights of the handicapped people and goes against the new regulations protecting consumer rights, which impose a heavy fine on the carrier and the airport operator if they did not provide services to this segment of society or deny them travel after they obtained their boarding passes.

Denying Dr. Al-Wazzan these services and banning him from boarding the airplane need a careful investigation. The airline company should explain what happened and justify the action of its staff.

There were many ways to reach an acceptable solution that would guarantee the safety of the passenger.

Denying services to handicapped people is common in some companies and institutions. They render the services depending on the mood of the concerned employee.

For example, we have seen taxi drivers refusing to accept handicapped passengers. Therefore, imposing a fine on any taxi driver who refuses to accept a handicapped person on a wheelchair is essential.

I have written previously on the difficulties handicapped people face when wanting to ride taxis.

Sometimes such neglect comes out of ignorance on the part of people who are educated or employed in high positions. I have written a previous article on that too.

Big companies and institutions have the tools and the abilities to come up with mechanisms and steps to serve this precious segment of society. People with special needs deserve our utmost care and humanitarian treatment, and they should not to be denied their right to travel. This is a very negative act and I am sure that officials at Saudi Arabian Airlines and the General Authority for Civil Aviation will not accept such treatment toward passengers.

I am sure had any of the passengers on the plane witnessed the incident, they would volunteer to take care of him if the airline allowed him to travel.

Dr. Al-Wazzan succeeded in sending his message across. Then who would listen to passengers who were in similar situations?


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