Friday, March 13, 2009

Fly me to The Academy, AirAsia

It was a special day today. Not only to wake up early at 6.30 to leave the house at 7. This morning I was to meet Anthony , a disabled friend who wanted to show me his special training session with a new batch of trainees from AirAsia.

Anyway, my drive to meet Anthony at the Indian Temple near Assunta was quite an easy ride. I waited in the car as rain began to fall more. Soon we were on our way to The Academy ,Air Asia, Sepang. On the way, I got to see for myself how a disabled person like Anthony drives a car, like any of us. All these he does deftly with the modified brakes and pedal.

I felt elated to be walking through the corridors of an AirAsia building. After all, it's our own CEO , Datuk Tony Fernandes, the whizkid of Malaysia who owns this building. And this is his training ground to groom his staff. Work is in progress to expand the new wing. I love the cheerful mural hugging the corridor walls. They depict such a bustling, lively, happening scene of people on the move, on the ground , in the plane. Did I spot one of Tony Fernandes with his signature cap? Have to say, I'm an admirer of him. Thanks for the zillions of air miles for everyone. Now I CAN fly too!

Anthony introduced me as his guest to 15 AirAsia trainees. Politely each entered the room and wished a cheery good morning before settling to their seats. These young and able bodied men and women have come from Hong Kong, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, , Vietnam and of course, KL. The training today: DET (Disability Equality Training) . From the start to the end of the training, it was an eye opener for all the participants. When were such topics covered during the school years? Was awareness ever raised so openly for forthright questions to be asked? But it was a no holds barred session as Anthony was well-equipped and ready to share his knowledge . Topics covered - wheelchair users, the deaf, the blind and people with learning disabilities . Each was dealt simply but expertly by the different disability coordinators besides Anthony . The aim was to help these trainees to be at ease to deal with people with different disabilities they encounter. After all, not only everyone can fly with AirAsia . Everyone must fly in comfort too, with or without handicap. So simple clear instructions were given on how to guide a blind his seat, down an aisle; how to wheel and transfer a traveller from a wheelchair to the airplane seat, how to sign simple words like 'welcome. goodbye, plane 'etc. It wasn't all about digesting facts and figures at this training session. The hands-on learning made it lively and interactive. Nothing beats putting oneself in someone else's shoes. Imagine the feeling of just sitting in a wheelchair ( only for a few minutes, mind you!) and not feeling the earth beneath your feet. Just wearing the eye masks drew comments of ' oooh! so dark! can't see anything!'

It was a long day but one with new found awareness for people with all kinds of disabilities. The message was clear : break down attitudinal and environmental barriers. Be proactive to change society. That's the way forward!

Like me, I believe the young men and women were enlightened . They are keen and full of spirit and ready to embrace more and shine. They are ready to spread their wings, take to the skies with AirAsia. Ready to serve ...

Wheels a-turning

Heave ho! Carefully does it!

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