Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment (CARE) on Thursday in Abuja unveiled their newly acquired Ambi Scissor Elevator for easy boarding of wheelchair users at the Abuja Airport.
It is part of their Accessible Aviation project supported by Oxfam Voice to create access for Persons with Disabilities at Nigerian Airports.
The unveiling of this state of the art equipment was the highpoint of the First Stakeholders Forum on Accessible Aviation with the theme: Bridging the gap in service delivery to PWDs in the Aviation Sector which took place at Abuja Airport.
The CEO of CARE-Nigeria, Dr. Chike Okogwu in his opening remark said that it is because of his accident along airport road in 2006 that made him a wheelchair user and his altercations with Dana air due to the discrimination he suffered while trying to board their aircraft that made this project a reality.
He specially thanked Oxfam and Voice for finding the project worthy and the project in the last one year have recorded some milestones such as NCAA putting a stop to the policy of compelling PWDs to buy double tickets before they would be allowed to travel, Airlines was mandated to make provision for PWDs in their booking portal in order to make arrangements for PWDs at the airport while boarding, handling companies are more aware of what is expected of them while handling Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM), issuing of On Duty Cards to CARE Representatives by FAAN and also providing office for them.
The project has also made it possible for some equipment such as Stair Climber Wheelchair and Ambi Scissors Elevator for wheelchair users at the airport instead of carrying them which is undignified and unsafe.
Dr. Chike called for more synergy and collaboration with the airlines, handling companies, aviation authorities and other major stakeholders in the aviation sector so that persons with disabilities can enjoy traveling via air.
He clarified that the CARE Representatives at the airport are not there to take away the work of the handling companies, rather they are there as part of the Accessible Aviation project to complement the work of the handling companies and also to teach them on how to handle different forms of disabilities.
Cedric Owuru, Oxfam Voice representative said that in Voice, they refer to those they work with as rightholders not beneficiaries because they want them to have ownership of the projects and also for them to take charge of the change they want to see.
He appreciated CARE for taking good advantage of the project to create access for PWDs at the airport and urged aviation authorities to take ownership of what CARE has started because at the end of the project, Voice will want to see the continuation of the processes established during the project.
The Stakeholders Forum which featured PWDs (Rightholders), Handling companies, Airlines Operators, NCAA officials and FAAN officials witnessed Panel discussions with interesting topics like Identifying the Gaps In Service Delivery to PWDs at the airport (1st Panel Discussion) facilitated by and Addressing tools, techniques and Processes for Safe and effective Service Delivery to PWDs at Airport (2nd Panel Discussion) by Agbo Christian Obiora, The Executive Director, The Qualitative Magazine (TQM).
The panelists were made up the rightholders and Aviation officials, and it was general agreed that Aviation authorities will do more to improve the aviation policy to conform with the sections in the Discrimination against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition)Act 2018 that address issues on air transportation, airlines should create inclusive feedback mechanism in order to get feedbacks from PWDs and make adjustments based on different forms of disability.
Airlines Operators and Aviation authorities agreed to work on the concerns raised by PWDs such as provision of sign language interpreters at the airport and on board, screen displays in the airports and on board, aide for the blind at the airport, clearer audio announcement, creating more accessible parking lot at the airport and boarding wheelchair users at a more dignified way.
The meeting also witnessed understanding the right terminologies while addressing PWDs by aviation officials.
The highpoint of the stakeholders forum is unveiling of Ambi Scissor Elevator at the tarmac.
There were goodwill messages from Ibomair, Air Peace, Arik air, FAAN, and NCAA.