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No handicaps to flying

Uğur CEBECİ

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Physical handicaps are not impediments to flying. Airlines are obliged to make all their best to allow handicapped citizens to enjoy comfortable flights. All the passenger needs to do is a little planning beforehand.

According to a survey in 2002, 12.5 percent of Turkey’s population, which makes 8.5 million people, is handicapped and very few of them can get the chance to travel or fly.

However, this is completely different in the U.S or in Europe. You often see at least one, or perhaps more handicapped passengers onboard.

In developed countries, all the architectural designs aim at removing obstacles before handicapped citizens – like sound alerts on traffic lights, or slanted curbs on pavements.

According to international aviation rules, all airlines have to admit handicapped passengers onboard, provided that the passenger’s mental or physical states allows him or her to fly alone. If a passenger’s condition does not allow him or her to fly alone, then the airline might require that he or she flies in someone else’s company. Then, the traveling companion would be responsible for the needs of the passenger.

Make a plan: Make a list of what you need take onboard with you, like medications and a report about your health condition, so that you won’t be impeded by a lat minute’s surprise.

Ask for information: Ask your doctors for information about flight safety. Also you should ask about flight rules for handicapped passengers when you are booking your ticket. Do not forget to inform the airline about your condition while booking, so that the airliner will undertake the necessary measures to facilitate your journey. Inform yourself about the numbers for and locations of emergency desks at the airports you will visit.

Boarding: Your check-in and security controls might take longer than other passengers, therefore make sure to arrive at the airport early enough. Your wheelchair will be put in a special carrier bag and thus loaded onboard. Do not forget, handicapped passengers are the first to board. If you do not have a traveling companion, aircraft crew can assist you.

Ask for help: Although you have informed officials already, let the cabin crew know about your situation as well after boarding. If you are sight impaired, you can ask for a safety precautions card in Braille.

Emergency: According to flight rules handicapped passengers are not allowed to occupy seats by emergency exits. In case of emergency, do not panic. The cabin crew will aid you first.

Handicapped Restroom: There are handicapped restrooms in large and double-aisled airplanes.

Landing: Handicapped passengers are the last to leave an aircraft. The cabin crew will assist you after landing. If you are flying abroad, a member of the cabin crew can guide you through the passport check to the luggage carousel.

Rules for the handicapped fliers

According to a list of rules prepared by Turkish Airlines, or THY, a handicapped passenger’s condition are evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. People who are hearing or sight impaired do not need to sign a waiver and are allowed to fly alone.

2. Party who are partly physically handicapped, like those using a walking stick, are allowed to fly alone if they sign a waiver.

3. People who are completely heavily handicapped, for example both hearing and sight impaired, cannot fly without a companion.

4. Passengers who need a wheelchair can only board with a wheelchair designed for flight called a cabin wheelchair. These passengers can travel alone if they sign a waiver

5. Mentally handicapped passengers cannot fly without a companion.

6. Partially immobile and aged passengers can fly without a companion if they sign a statement declaring their self-sufficiency.

7. The waiver signed by a handicapped passenger during check-in has three copies: one for personnel at the check-in desk, another for the chief of the cabin crew and the passengers keeps the third copy.

8. A waiver is not used for flights to and from the U.S.

9. Guide dogs for people who are hearing or sight impaired are allowed in the cabin regardless of their weight, for which the regular limit is 6 kilograms including the carrier, provided that a prior booking is made for them and they are wearing muzzles.

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