Activist Javed Abidi, who'd helped frame rules to ensure that the disabled didn't face discrimination at India's airports, was forced to get off his wheelchair at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Wednesday. Despite his protests, the Central Industrial Security Force, which manages airport security, gave him the option of either getting up from his seat or missing the flight. Abidi said he finally gave in as he couldn't afford to miss the flight.
Abidi, who chairs the global Disabled Peoples’ International, told the Times of India said that he'd travelled around the world and never suffered the humiliation of being made to get off the wheelchair. The CISF said that it suspected the cushion on Abidi's wheelchair to be "unusually thick," and wanted him to move to one of the airline's wheelchair to facilitate a thorough screening. They denied being rude or misbehaving with him.
"His cushion was unusually thick. We requested him to move to one of the airline's wheelchair
so that his chair could be screened, but he refused.We asked him to follow the rules and told him we were bound to follow the protocol.He was also shown the manual. Checking the wheelchair is necessary to ensure public safety . Finally, we had to tell him that we had left no option but to not allow him beyond the frisking point. None of our officials misbehaved," the official told the Times of India.
Activist Shivani Gupta told the Times of India that according to the guidelines no wheelchair user would be forced to stand. It also says that the official must not attempt to manually lift the wheelchair user as this is against the person's dignity and jeopardises safety, she said. Abidi had reached the airport to board Air In dia flight AI 275 to Colombo, for an official meeting, and was traveling with two of his colleagues. After his travel documents were checked, and he arrived for frisking, he was stopped by CISF personnel.
India has had a spotty record on making public spaces more amenable to the disabled. Critical infrastructure elements such as ramps, wider elevators, escalators, modified toilet facilities etc have usually come after sustained campaigns and protests led by activists such as Abidi.