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European Air Rules improve disabled passengers’ rights – but still leave gaps

New European Air rules to ensure fairer treatment for disabled passengers will still leave some disabled Scots without protection.

The new Regulation, which comes into effect tomorrow (Thursday 26 July) means that for the first time, disabled passengers flying within Europe cannot be refused a flight because of their disability.

But if a disabled person is discriminated against and wants redress, there is no enforcing body to help support their claim, warns the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). The DRC is calling on the Government to lift the current exemption on planes and ships from the Disability Discrimination Act.

DRC Scotland Director Adam Gaines said: "We welcome the new EU rules, but feel they don’t go far enough. For the first time, disabled people have the right to fair treatment when flying. But some disabled travellers could still be treated unfairly without redress. An additional gap in the new Regulation means that some disabled people aren’t protected – such as someone with HIV or Tourettes – because they are not classed as disabled.

“Individuals can face discrimination because of the stigma of their condition – for example, the DRC had a complaint from John Davidson, a Scot with Tourettes, who was refused a flight from Scotland to Dublin because of his impairment last year. While the new EU rules should improve things greatly, we are concerned that those who fall through the net have no-one to fight their cause.

“The continuing exclusion of air transport from equal access legislation is a serious concern for Scotland, as planes often provide lifeline services between the Highlands and Islands and the mainland, particularly for disabled people travelling to and from hospital appointments or going to see family on the mainland.

“We are aware that many disabled passengers encounter problems on – and are denied access to - flights they have booked and paid for. This causes untold distress and affects the lives of thousands of disabled people.

“The Regulation does not permit a UK body to help represent a disabled person in court. Without this, disabled travellers who’ve faced unfair treatment are unlikely to take the gruelling path to the courtroom. These gaps can only be safely plugged if the current exemption of air transport from the Disability Discrimination Act is lifted.”

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