Indigo Airlines, Your Apology On The Appalling Treatment Of A Special Child Is Useless Without A Mindset Change!

The biggest irony is that this manager decides that the child in a wheelchair, who cannot even walk independently could get up and hurt everyone around him. HOW? So, he decides to prevent him from getting on the flight.

A thirteen year old boy sat sadly in a wheelchair, watching the drama unfold around him at Ranchi airport where he was denied to travel in the Indigo flight. Seeing the video, it is very clear that he posed no threat to anyone. Unfortunately, the Indigo airlines manager had no idea what he was talking about.

This incident from Ranchi could not be ignored by me, because this is the challenge that we moms of special needs children face at one time or another.

Despite the boy being calm after that throughout, as quoted by a passenger present, “The Indigo staff announced that the child would not be allowed to take the flight. That he was a risk to other passengers. That he would have to become ‘normal’, before he could be travel-worthy. And the staff then went on to state something on the lines of ‘behaviours such as this, and that of drunk passengers deems them unfit to travel.’”

This clearly indicates that the person mentioned above (the Indigo Manager) has zero knowledge of people with special needs. How can a person born different, with a challenge, suddenly become ‘normal’ at his command? The comparison with drunk people is obnoxious, to say the least.

As mother of a daughter with disability, I have seen such things closely

I have faced such incidents a lot of times, but then I haven’t given in so easily. I have stood my ground and changed quite a few rules. It has taxed me emotionally, but I have fought it out very hard because it was not just my daughter who was in question, but many other children like her and parents like me. I had the energy to fight, but many parents are so tired that they just give in.

We have these terms ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ used loosely, but is there a clear line that divides these behaviours? What is considered normal in one culture can be abnormal in another? No behaviour is abnormal in itself. Like below, the person holding an umbrella is ‘normal’ behaviour when it is raining or sunny.

But the same behaviour would be ‘abnormal’ in case it is without those elements of rain or sun.

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Special children can become a bit panic-stricken and have a meltdown when they are hungry, confused or facing a new change. This behaviour is normal to them. For regular people, it can be abnormal.

My daughter panics at the sight of balloons because she is terrified of them bursting. That doesn’t mean she is going to harm everyone around her. People seeing the parents struggle with the challenges of a special child, take it as a one-time incident. But, for us, it is a challenge to go about in an unsupportive society to get simple tasks done or get the dignity and respect our children deserve.

A person with a disability is unable to perform certain tasks like walking, talking, hearing, seeing or using the intellect like the majority of people do. Does that make that person or child’s behaviour abnormal?

The definition of ‘abnormal behaviour’ in society is completely wrong in the personal dictionary and more often mental illness is confused with disability. Disability is not abnormal. The behaviour of people who cannot show empathy to people who have challenges is a bit abnormal.

We need to create a big awareness drive to create an understanding of the people with challenges among those who do not interact with them on regular basis. People should know that they have their rights like any other citizens of a nation. It is the duty of society to provide the people with challenges access to all public services.

We need to ask hard questions

I have been fighting my own little battle to make our society more inclusive. The biggest reason behind that is ignorance like the one exhibited by the manager of Indigo flight. The Indigo apology does not address the issue but looks like they are further insulting the parents by offering them an electric chair for their child as though that is going to fix any damage caused.

So far no one knows where and why the three passengers were travelling and how important it was for them to be at the destination. What was the damage caused to them by missing the flight?

How much of the whole incident is understood by the child involved, and how will it impact his future travel experiences?

Next time he sees an airport, will the recollection of the hue and cry made over him cause another panic attack leading to a vicious cycle of the incident recurring?

The manager mentioned harm to other co-passengers.

Did he have any statistics of special needs children hurting co-passengers on the flight? How often has that happened or has it ever happened at all?

The biggest irony is that this manager decides that the child in a wheelchair who cannot even walk independently could get up and hurt everyone around him. HOW? So, he decides to prevent him from getting on the flight, and save everyone from a wheelchair-bound teenager. Good job Sir! You averted a great disaster!

Awareness and inclusion drives need to be integrated into our systems

I do need to thank the passengers who tried to support this family, even though they had to leave and go – not very often will people stand in support of the parents of a special child.

I am grateful to all of them for standing up for a special child, because this support is very important for all of us. But one more step and the war would have been won.

What could have changed the whole episode into a positive one is if the headline could have read – Indigo flight passengers refuse to board the flight without the wheelchair-bound co-passenger. The passengers could have made this a reality.

I know I am expecting too much from others, but that is what is needed now to change the present rigid mindset of people who think of people in wheelchairs to be ‘dangerous’ to people around them. It would have been a small step for the co-passengers, but a huge leap for humanity.

Nevertheless, they tried their best. Thank you! We need more people like you to make our children become a part of our society, and not remain stuck at home due to the difficulties we face when we travel with them.

And Indigo Airlines – your apology is pretty useless – here’s a better, sensitively worded one. Take a look and change yours.

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About the Author

Farida Rizwan

I am Farida Rizwan, 55, Counselor and Psychotherapist working as Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple Learning. I am ardent blogger and share my life experiences of surviving breast cancer 3rd stage for read more...

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