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Blind activist humiliated at Colombo airport

Published : Feb 9, 2017, 2:41 am IST
Updated : Feb 9, 2017, 6:49 am IST

Goyal has said that the airport staff refused to help her and “advised” not to carry bags if she cannot handle them.

Visually-impaired activist Nidhi Goyal.
 Visually-impaired activist Nidhi Goyal.

Mumbai: Nidhi Goyal (31), a visually-impaired activist from Mumbai, has alleged that she was humiliated by the ground staff at Colombo airport for not being able to carry her own luggage. In a compliant to the Jet Airways, Ms Goyal has said that the airport staff refused to help her and “advised” not to carry bags if she cannot handle them.

Ms Goyal works on disability rights and gender justice in Mumbai. Recently, she visited Sri Lanka for a global dialogue on sexuality and disability organised by CREA (is a feminist human rights organisation), and concluded her trip with conducting a training organised by Handicap International for Sri Lankan women, about rights of women and girls with disabilities.

The said incident took place during her return journey. Ms. Goyal was waiting for her flight in the waiting area and wanted to use the loo. Since the staff didn’t turn up for over half hour in spite of repeated requests, Ms Goyal decided to enter the airport and find her way to the loo on her own. “After the screening I needed help to push one of my bags with four wheels for which I asked help as had cane in my other hand. The officer who usually helps people with disability blatantly refused, saying she is not supposed to touch it. I even urged her to just guide but she refused,” she said.

Finally, a duty manager helped her, but also told her “Don't carry bags if you can’t handle them”. According to the passenger, the duty manager also told that people on wheelchair should put their bags on their laps.

Ms Goyal who was booked in a Jet Airways flight. After the incident at Colombo airport, she not only reported the incident at the airport but also filed a written complaint (accessed by this paper) to Sri Lankan airline as well as Jet Airways and is awaiting their response.

“It was extremely disheartening to face this kind of a treatment in the same country where I had gone to educate disabled people on how they should not feel let down by what other people say to them,” Ms Goyal said.

When contacted, a senior Jet Airways official said, “We have taken up the matter with the concerned airline and we will make sure that the passenger gets justice.”

Despite repeated attempts, The Asian Age did not get any response from Colombo airport officials. After a telephonic conversation with the head office, an email was sent to H.S. Hettiarchchi the Head of Airport Management of Bandaranaike Airport, as suggested by the person attending the call. However, no reply was received from Mr Hettiarchchi also.

Tags: jet airways, visually-impaired, sexuality
Location: India, Maharashtra, Mumbai (Bombay)