There's much to look forward to at the new upgraded Chennai airport terminal. Better facilities and infrastructure that's disabled-friendly and accessible.One of India’s biggest airports, Chennai aims to show the way to others when it comes to inclusion.
Reports are that the Airports Authority of India (AAI)is abiding by the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in ensuring complete accessibility in the new terminal. Construction work began last July, and is expected to be completed in another three years so domestic and international flights can be accommodated.
Smita Sadasivan, a disability rights activist and member of the Disability Rights Alliance in Chennai says this is much needed given how inaccessible the terminals currently are. She says that apart from facilities, authorities must sensitize the staff as well and all this must be done taking into account inputs from the community.
Accessibility involves both infrastructure and services. So, if one of them is not accessible, then the other cannot serve its purpose. Periodic sensitisation of staff on how to handle or reasonable accommodations for disabled passengers should go hand in hand. Right now, the Chennai terminal is not very accessible and the floor is also slippery. Being a silent terminal, no measures are made to inform visually impaired passengers. Toilets are not maintained well and are always kept locked. - Smita Sadasivan, Member, Disability Rights Alliance
An exclusive training session for engineers will be held in Delhi very soon on how to make the terminal more accessible. This session will also provide the engineers a platform to understand accessibility in depth and apply the same in other airports across India.
“In fact, airports in India are disabled-friendly to a large extent. But there are many things that still need to go into consideration, including sensitizing ground staff about being disabled-friendly and so on. For instance, when you are a wheelchair user, you must not be removed from your wheelchair and shifted to the one from airport. There are many more such things to be considered. Since this new terminal is planning to be made accessible, officials must consult disabled people to know their needs”, says Meenakshi Balasubramanian of Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice.
Once the work for this new terminal is completed, Chennai airport hopes to accommodate at least 30 million passengers every year.