Disabled passenger told to stand up and ‘stop doing drama’ by airport security staff

Helen Coffey
Virali Modi has called on the Indian security force to change: Wikipedia/Sanket Oswal

A disabled passenger travelling through New Delhi airport was “humiliated” when security staff ordered her to “stop doing drama” and “stand up” for a check.

Virali Modi, an American disability rights activist who has lived in Mumbai since 2008, is a wheelchair user and has been unable to walk or stand since she sustained a spinal cord injury in 2006.

She claims she informed the security agent of this, only to be told she had to stand up in order to be checked.

Ms Modi, 27, told The Independent: “I felt humiliated and angry that something like this could happen in 2019, even after having a disability law in place in India.

“There needs to be an overhaul of the government. More training and a focus on sensitisation and empathy needs to be in place. The government should use disability rights activists and NGOs that focus on sensitivity for their training protocols.”

In an emotional Twitter post, Ms Modi wrote that she had surrendered her wheelchair at the check-in counter for Spicejet flight SG8723 on 9 September, and was assigned a porter to accompany her all the way to the aircraft when she explained the nature of her disability.

However, once at security, Ms Modi alleges a female agent from India’s Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) “started making a scene".

Having told the agent that she was unable to walk or stand, Ms Modi claims the woman responded: “You have to stand, otherwise how can we check you?”

Ms Modi explained that she has travelled extensively and a manual pat down has always sufficed.

“You have to stand!” replied the agent.

To make matters worse, Ms Modi said she overheard the woman speaking to another agent, saying: “That girl is so melodramatic, she’s unnecessarily doing drama. She can obviously stand.”

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“This is the second time the CISF have been insensitive towards me and my disability,” she concluded the post. “Even the porter that was assigned to me was trying to explain that I cannot walk or stand and she was being rude.

“Is this how you treat people with disabilities?”

Ms Modi told The Independent that CISF agents have previously questioned her disability.

“The first experience was in November of 2018,” she said. “The exact situation occurred, except this time, the officer pulled my leg so hard causing an injury to my knee for which I needed to be hospitalised.”

The Independent has contacted CISF and Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for comment.

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