There have been numerous incidents one after the other which have proved that in our society we treat disability like an afterthought. It’s difficult to find disabled-friendly apartments in big cities. Government offices do not have lifts or wheelchair-friendly elevations. Public washrooms are not catered for disabled people. Movie theatres are not made for wheelchair-bound people. The list just goes on and on and it is infuriating.
Yet again, a woman named Virali Modi who is wheelchair-bound and a disability activist, took to social media to share her harrowing experience travelling with IndiGo airlines. The cabin crew forgot about her condition, made her wait a long time to deboard, and went on to lose her wheelchair cushion which is specifically made to cater to her condition. This happened on December 5 during a Delhi to Mumbai flight.
“The cabin crew were chatting to the captain or someone in a similar uniform. The cleaning crew had come on board and I had to inform them. That’s when the cabin crew rushed to arrange an aisle wheelchair. I had to wait a total for 40 minutes to deplane after everyone else had exited the flight. I couldn’t alert the cabin crew because the call button was out of reach, like on all of their flights. I had even informed that I wanted my wheelchair at the gate and they failed to mention that as well,” she wrote.
When she arrived at the baggage counter, her wheelchair was nowhere to be found. Finally, when it was found, the helper assigned to her kept removing her wheelchair cushion. After she reached home she realised that her cushion was missing. This was followed by long calls with apathetic customer care executives.
“A helper from Indigo had come to assist me and he was negligent as well. My legs were stiff but he kept on pushing the aisle chair. As soon as I arrived to the baggage claim, my wheelchair was nowhere to be seen. My fellow passengers had already collected their luggage and were leaving the airport. I had to wait another 30 minutes for my personal wheelchair because no one had bothered to bring it up from the aircraft. Moving forward, I reached my car and the helper kept removing my personal wheelchair’s cushion. I kept telling him that it was mine but he didn’t listen. When I arrived home, that’s when I realised that my cushion was nowhere to be found. That cushion is specifically made for me and my spine for the utmost comfort since I use a wheelchair full time.”
“What am I supposed to do in this situation? First, you steal my dignity, then you steal my independence, and now you’re stealing my peace of mind. Everyone knows the first row is the most comfortable for wheelchair users and/or people with actual physical problems. Instead of accommodating to our needs, you’d rather sell those seats to make a profit. Whenever I’m boarding, I’m always made to sit in the aisle. Since I cannot walk or even stand, my co-passengers have to crawl over me. Often times their asses or their crotches are in my face,” she further expressed.
Life is tremendously hard as it is if you are someone with a disability and incidents like these trivialize your struggles all the more. It is appalling to see the kind of casual treatment meted out to people with disabilities.
You may read her full post here:
Indigo Airlines does NOT care about their passengers with disabilities. I’ve been paralysed from the waist down since 2006 and I use a wheelchair for mobility. I flew from Delhi to Mumbai on 5th December, 2023 on flight number 6E-864. After everyone deplaned, the cabin crew…
— Virali Modi (@Virali01) December 6, 2023
After Virali’s post went viral, several people slammed the airlines for their insensitivity and disregard. After facing immense backlash online, IndiGo finally took certain steps to make the situation right. First, they made a customized cushion for Virali according to the specifications of her wheelchair. Next, they specifically hand-delivered the cushion to her.
UPDATE #2: Mr. Pratik Arjun Sen has constantly been in touch with me and stuck to his promise of delivering a new cushion, specifically made for me and my disability. His colleague, Ms. Pranali came and hand delivered the cushion. Thank you @IndiGo6E for resolving this. pic.twitter.com/MkraqHkjI2
— Virali Modi (@Virali01) December 7, 2023
Incidents like these show what a long way we have to go when it comes to being more inclusive of the needs of disabled people.