Indian para-athlete Suvarna Raj raises concerns about mistreatment of differently-abled people by airlines

Indian para-athlete Suvarna Raj raises concerns about mistreatment by airline crew and airport personnel towards differently-abled people. She recounts her personal experiences and calls for increased awareness and sensitivity. #DisabilityRights #AirTravelIssues

Suvarna travelled from New Delhi to Chennai on Friday and revealed that upon landing, she was denied of attaining a personal wheelchair for her transport needs.

“I think that the airline incidents happened multiple times. Whenever I got onto a flight, I always told the crew members that I wanted my wheelchair at my landing destination every time,” exclaimed Suvarna.

“I fly very frequently. Even in the past two months, I have flown at least 10 times and nine times out of those, I did not receive my wheelchair. Why?

“I have told the crew members multiple times and they always reply positively first. But in the end, my request is never fulfilled and they always end up presenting a cabin wheelchair for me, and never my personal wheelchair.”

Born in Nagpur, Suvarna was stricken by polio at two years of age that affected movement in both her legs. Since then, Suvarna has been wheelchair-bound.

She initially took up table tennis as her primary sport and in 2014, she participated in the Asian Para Games in Korea, and won two medals at the Thailand Para Table Tennis Open 2013 held in Bangkok.

At the end of 2017, she chose athletics with a focus on shot put, discus throw, and javelin. She has won medals in national events and has qualified for international tournaments as well.

The para-athlete also spoke out about the demeaning attitude that airport and airline personnel have showcased to her and her friend whilst travelling and recalled yet another incident of mistreatment by the same.

“I raised my concerns with the airport authorities… The day before yesterday, a security member asked my friend, who also uses a wheelchair, to stand up. Not once, but thrice. They kept on persisting, asking her to stand up so they can check her. My friend replied telling them that she cannot do so, but the security kept saying ‘No, you can stand up’. So, I don’t know where their sensitivity lies, what the mindset of such people constitute,” stated a spirited Suvarna.

“We are running for smart cities, but we have no smart thinking. So, first let us think smart and then move onto smart cities. I want the media to raise this issue.”

Suvarna Raj has and continues to be a vocal advocate for the rights of differently-abled people in India.

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