EU vows to improve travel rights for disabled

The European Commission vowed Wednesday to strengthen the travel rights of the disabled, after a UN disability expert who uses a wheelchair complained that he was barred from a Swiss airline flight.

Shuaib Chalklen, the United Nations special rapporteur on disability, was told by the airline that he could not board a London-to-Geneva flight without an escort because he would not be able to use the toilet without help.

The European Disability Forum said the April 4 incident was a "clear violation" of EU rules governing the rights of the disabled and urged the commission to curb such "discriminatory behaviour."

EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas pledged to present a set of measures to clarify the laws related to passenger rights and strengthen their application.

He will present the measures by the end of the year in order for them to take effect in time for the Special Olympics in London in 2012, when several disabled athletes will fly for the games.

A memo issued by Kallas's office last week found that disabled people and people with reduced mobility "continue to come across many problems when travelling by air."

The problems include a lack of equal level of service in Europe as well as "too often unjustified refusals or restrictions of reservations or boarding based on unclear safety reasons."

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