This Purple Tuesday we embrace airport customer experience for persons with disabilities

Jean-Sebastien Pard by Jean-Sebastien Pard | Nov 12, 2019

With passenger traffic expected to more than double within the next 20 years, the aviation industry needs to accommodate a growing number of persons with visible and invisible disabilities who fly, including people with reduced mobility.

As the number of passengers with reduced mobility that are choosing to travel increases, airports are striving in ensuring that their terminals are accessible, inclusive and easy to use.

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Everyday, people with disabilities experience accessibility challenges and it is critical that airports meet everyone’s need. In order to highlight Purple Tuesday on 12 November – and reflect on ways in which airports lead efforts on accessibility – we’ll take a  look at recent initiatives put forward by London Gatwick Airport, Houston Airports, and Vancouver International Airport.

London Gatwick Airport: New videos inspiring accessible travel

London Gatwick Airport recently released three new videos which have been developed to inspire people with disabilities to travel. These videos show the airport journey from the perspective of a passenger in a wheelchair and a passenger who has partial vision.

The films show:

  • how special assistance services can work
  • a seamless customer journey throughout the terminal
  • the various initiatives implemented to ensure accessibility at every touch point.

One of Gatwick’s goals is to become the UK’s most accessible airport and the airport team is continuing to work with passengers, charity partners, and other accessibility experts to reach this goal.

An accessible journey through Gatwick from Gatwick Airport on Vimeo.

Houston Airports: Utilizing mobile app technology

Always looking for new ways to ease the journey for its passengers, the new Access Houston Airports mobile app prepares anyone, and particularly families travelling with children who have developmental disabilities, for a visit to George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. These two airports are among the first in the U.S. to utilize mobile app technology in assisting travellers with developmental disabilities.

Access Houston Airports mobile app

The app is embedded with research-based strategies proven to help individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. The app includes specific features such as:

  • explorer guides with short visual stories that describe each space in the airport
  • scheduling functionality with a visual checklist that can be customized
  • communication icons to assist those who are less verbal in talking or asking for help
  • caregiver support which include terminal maps, tips and other information to help in planning a visit to the airport.
Access Houston Airports mobile app

Vancouver International Airport: Video sign language interpretation

Keeping in mind the airport’s commitment to deliver an outstanding customer experience, several services are available at Vancouver International Airport to meet the needs of all passengers. These include the popular remote on-demand phone interpreting system which offers phone interpretation in more than 240 languages.

Vancouver International Airport language interpretation stations

Vancouver recently launched its latest service, real-time video interpretation which is available in 36 languages including American Sign Language. This service provides a positive experience and better service for passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. It complements the existing interpreting services and can be requested through the frontline staff at the customer care counters which are located in various convenient locations in the terminal.

The future is accessible

All airports must meet the diverse and unique needs of all travellers passing through their terminals.

Accessibility goes hand it hand with the passenger journey which affects all passengers.

And as one of the most influential innovators have expressed “the accessibility problems of today are the mainstream breakthroughs of tomorrow.” – Google.

Jean-Sebastien Pard

Jean-Sebastien Pard

Director, Facilitation and Passenger Services, ACI World
Jean-Sebastien provides guidance and support to the airport community on a wide range of activities linked to the processing and clearance of aircraft, people, and goods. He also leads the development of best practices, implementation strategies, and initiatives in the areas of passenger process improvements and simplified passenger travel solutions while supporting the work of organizations such as IATA, WTTC, WEF and WHO.
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