Playing with the big dogs

On Thursday I went to the Melbourne Town Hall to attend a meeting of the Disability Advisory Committee Social Issues Working Group. This is a subsidiary committee for the Disability Advisory Committee for the City of Melbourne.

This committee consists of people from organizations within the disability sector. Most of these representatives have a disability and are members of a number of committees. It felt like I was with the bigwigs of the younger generation.

A number of topics were raised and I must admit I did feel a bit out of my depth. But we ended the meeting on the topic of airlines. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) wants to reduce the number of cabin crew on board. Currently there is a ratio of one cabin crew to 36 passengers. CASA is suggesting there be one cabin crew to 50 passengers.

Proposals to move from a ratio of 1:36 to 1:50 are clearly at odds with the initiatives taken by the Government to enhance and improve safety and security for airline passengers, including people with a disability.

While this issue does concern me, another issue raised really got to me. What upset me was finding out that people in wheelchairs/scooters who are unable to lift themselves out of their wheelchair/scooter into their seat must fly with an able bodied person who can do it for them. So, if a person wants to fly independently, they must pay for another seat so that a carer can go with them.

I understand that people need to be trained in handling of these devices and the right way to lift a person. What I don’t understand is why stewards aren’t offered to do training in this. Maybe if they were given the opportunity to do the training, they would take up the offer. I also understand that there are costs involved in providing these courses, but it just doesn’t seem right that people with a disability (a lot of whom are unemployed and only on a disability pension), have to fork out double the money to go on a holiday.

I guess I am lucky enough that I’m not in a wheelchair/scooter and I don’t need assistance getting into the seat.

On to another topic, I am currently trying to obtain travel insurance for my trip. This is proving to be quite difficult as no one wants to cover a pre-existing condition. I am trying to apply for insurance through Australian Unity as well as getting the FD Foundation to obtain it from their end. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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