Peak disability bodies have called on airlines to be more inclusive and respectful to travellers with disability, after a 21-year-old deafblind woman from Perth was refused from boarding her flight last month.
Vanessa Vlajkovic who was crowned Western Australia’s Young Person of the Year in 2016, was boarding her Jetstar flight from Perth to Adelaide when she was advised that she would not be able to fly without a carer.
Jetstar did not record Ms Vlajkovic’s disability in its entirety and said her safety would be at risk if she flew alone.
Ms Vlajkovic says if she thought she couldn’t fly alone, she wouldn’t.
“I am more familiar with my limitations than ANYONE else, I will not willingly put myself in harm’s way.
“It isn’t the administration error itself of not entering my disability that is the issue.
“The ignorance is the worst bit and I hope to see that change soon.
“The airline’s job is to accommodate my needs, not kick me off a flight simply because they see fit,” she says.
Peak bodies Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) and Deafblind Australia (DBA) has labelled the airline’s handling of the situation as ‘disgraceful’.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DBA, David Murray says Jetstar’s safety claim was baseless.
“Technology is readily available which enables the communication gap that once existed between people who are deafblind and their non-disabled peers to be easily overcome.”
President of DBA, Rikki Chaplin says people who are deafblind use a wide variety of methods to communicate depending on what situation they are in.
For example, Ms Vlajkovic uses an iPhone combined with a braille display enabling her to read and respond to digital communications.
“This does not mean that people who use their sight and hearing to communicate are prevented from interacting with people who are deafblind.
“That’s why it’s so important for airlines to develop policies based on demonstrated evidence, rather than ill-informed perceptions of how people with disabilities interact with others.”
CEO of BCA Emma Bennison says Jetstar’s response is ‘disgraceful’ particularly at a time where society is working towards inclusivity of people with disability
“We live in a time when technology has the potential to make genuine inclusivity a reality for people who are deafblind, and we fully support DBA and Ms Vlajkovic in holding Jetstar accountable.”
“These stories keep coming. Airlines HAVE to stop discriminating against disabled people,” disability advocate El Gibbs says.
Both peak bodies have been working closely with airlines to ensure that their practices are fully inclusive.
Jetstar has since apologised to Ms Vlajkovic.