Airlines can ban disabled from flights
More than half of the mainland's 24 airlines have rules saying staff may refuse to allow disabled passengers on board if they might offend other passengers or make them uncomfortable, a recent study found.
Twenty-two airlines also have rules that allow them to reject those who have not given advance notification of their disability, and eight airlines mandate that disabled people have to apply for permission to fly and can only get that permission at several designated sales outlets, according to a report released yesterday by the Equity and Justice Initiative, a Shenzhen-based anti-discrimination advocacy group.
The non-governmental organisation said the often-cited reasons for airlines refusing to allow disabled people on board were that they had not applied in advance, they could not produce medical certificates or they may 'cause discomfort or offence among other passengers'.
The report said these practices violated the mainland's anti-discrimination laws, but were in line with the outdated policies of the Civil Aviation Administration of China - the industry regulator.
'Those rules are extremely backwards and need to be scrapped ... and the rule that says the disabled may be rejected because they may cause offence is even more ridiculous,' said Liu Xiaohu , a project co-ordinator at the Equity and Justice Initiative who co-wrote the report.
'There are more than 80 million disabled people in China, but you see very few of them out and about,' he said. 'That's because there are hardly any facilities for the disabled on public transport or at venues. Their needs are often overlooked.'
Phone calls to the press office of the Civil Aviation Administration went unanswered yesterday.
The report cited the case of a young woman who was not allowed to board a flight from Kunming to Chengdu last month because she did not notify Chengdu Airlines in advance that she used a wheelchair.
Zhu Lanying, 26, who is paralysed from the chest down, said she was travelling on her own on October 8 and had already checked in and gone through security checks at Kunming airport. But ground staff at the boarding gate refused to allow her to board, and she said she was pushed to the ground while arguing with them.
'This so-called rule is grossly unfair to the disabled ... but the airport authority and airline both refused to apologise,' she told the South China Morning Post.
Chengdu Airlines refused to comment when contacted by a reporter yesterday.
The report also mentioned several recent cases of discrimination, including Air China refusing to let a mentally disabled child and his grandmother board a flight in June 2008, on 'security' grounds, when they were due to fly to Beijing from Los Angeles.
No one at Air China was available for comment yesterday.
Yu Fangqiang, an NGO worker specialising in anti-discrimination issues, said bias against the disabled was extremely widespread on the mainland.
'The injustice they suffer in society is unimaginable,' said Yu, executive director of Nanjing-based advocacy group Tianxiagong. 'And these rules are just blatant discrimination against the disabled, excluding them as if they are freaks, creating obstacles for them and deepening society's prejudice against them.'
Additional reporting by Laura Zhou
Some research shows that this percentage of disabled people has very low income and only 25% are employed on a full-time basis