As the aviation industry moves closer to the 41st ICAO Assembly (A41), ACI will be sharing its key advocacy positions that will be presented in the form of Working Papers from 27 September–7 October 2022 to 193 Member States (governments) and a large number of international organizations. The ICAO Assembly establishes its worldwide policy for the upcoming triennium and outcomes will guide other bodies of ICAO and its Member States’ future work in civil aviation. ACI has been working diligently to prepare its advocacy positions and engagement strategy to represent its members’ needs at a crucial junction in time and under the theme: #All4one Aviation Ecosystem.
In a recent ACI Insights article, I argued that Airport Accessibility is a Human, Societal, and Business Imperative. As more and more people take to the skies and with populations aging, we must make inclusion a priority, and not just because it is the right thing to do.
ACI and our industry partners are making accessibility a priority in different ways: IATA and ACI have enhanced their recommendations for accessible airport design in the new edition of the Airport Development Reference Manual (ADRM) – with a focus on universal design. As part of their Sustainability Strategies, many airports are making Diversity and Inclusion part of their corporate strategies. ACI is working on a program that will recognize airports that are meeting a certain service level in terms of accessibility.
We now turn our attention to States, regulators and the United Nations (UN) system ahead of the 41st ICAO General Assembly later this year. An efficient, consistent regulatory framework is key, as it ensures that persons with disabilities’ fundamental rights are respected. Many States have a strong legal framework in place to reduce barriers and increase opportunities for people with disabilities and ensure their full participation in society. This is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been ratified by 184 States.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) no. 4, 8, 10 and 11 all underpin the importance of social and disability inclusion. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s Goal 11.2 refers specifically to transport. In December last year, the UN General Assembly stressed again the need to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers that limit the access of persons with disabilities to transportation, among others. The UN also has an ambitious, system-wide Disability Inclusion Strategy under which it commits to embedding the rights of persons with disabilities into its work, both externally and internally.
The ICAO Assembly taking place from 27 September to 7 October will rightly focus on environmental sustainability, with critical discussions on a long-term aspirational goal for carbon emissions. Other parts of sustainability, such as social sustainability, should not be neglected. ICAO should be encouraged to prioritize inclusion and accessibility in the same way that the United Nations overall framework is currently doing.
This is why in September, the European Union and its Member States, the other Member States of the European Civil Aviation Conference, Canada, ACI and IATA will propose the adoption of an Assembly Resolution on Accessibility in International Civil Aviation. This would be the first Resolution of its kind: accessibility-related clauses are currently included in a much broader Consolidated Statement of ICAO Policies related to Facilitation.
Over the last months, ACI has worked with several States and with industry partners on a Working Paper that will propose this Assembly Resolution. The Paper will suggest that ICAO’s leadership on accessibility is both necessary and urgent, to provide a basis for States to act and to confirm that accessibility is a priority for the next triennium, as part of the broader social sustainability agenda.
ICAO’s Annex 9 – Facilitation already includes a substantial set of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) related to accessibility. Mindsets and ambitions are progressing quickly on this issue – so it makes sense to review the SARPs and ensure that the global baseline is strong. Following a proposal by Canada, ICAO has also started compiling best practices in a Compendium.
One of ICAO’s twenty priorities for 2023-2025, for approval by the Assembly is to establish a comprehensive work program to facilitate mitigating the barriers that limit the ability of persons with reduced mobility and persons with disabilities to travel by air.
Regulations should not be seen as a ceiling that airports and industry must reach. Instead, ICAO Resolutions and SARPs, like national regulations, are essential foundations to provide a basic level of expectations for persons with disabilities. Industry should then determine how high the ceiling is (hint: it should be high). ACI World is working on a program that will, later this year, incentivize airports to do more and recognize those that are aiming for the ceiling. Accessibility and disability inclusion will continue to be imperatives, and rightly so.
 N2140240.pdf (un.org) A/RES/76/154, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 16 December 2021, Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto: participation