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Airports More Cognizant of Disabled Passengers

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With airports becoming more and more cognizant of handicapped passengers and their needs, GlobalData has found six initiatives launched specifically designed to ease the travel of disabled passengers.

GlobalData is an analytical firm serving a plethora of industries, including aviation, and clients such as Coca-Cola and Ikea.

Airport technology writer Varsha Saraogi lists changes that were implemented in 2019 that she liked that made air travel a better experience.

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Self-driving wheelchairs at Abu Dhabi International Airport. WHILL, an electric vehicle manufacturer, and Etihad Airways teamed up to introduce a wheelchair that allows passengers with reduced mobility to move around the airport without the assistance of a staff member. These vehicles are equipped with sensors to identify obstructions and offer an automatic stop function. In addition, the airport is working toward developing other features to be rolled out in the future, which include real-time gate and boarding time updates for guests.

Boise Airport and virtual reality. To help passengers with autism navigate the airport environment before going in person, the airport in Boise, Idaho collaborated with Boise State University to create a virtual reality experience. Apart from being available at the airport itself, the VR experience can also be used at the Boise Library before passengers visit the airport.

United Airlines hires Special Olympics athletes as ambassadors. In October of this year, United Airlines hired special employees to help disabled travelers navigate Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The airline also aims to motivate them to be more independent in mainstream society.

Cork Airport introduces sunflower lanyard scheme. The ‘Sunflower Lanyard’ initiative, already in use in airports including Heathrow and Gatwick in London, has now come to Ireland. It allows passengers with hidden disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy and acquired brain injuries, to discreetly identify themselves to staff and easily ask for extra support.

Sea-Tac International improves signage and introduces induction loops. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport not only also implemented initiatives such as sunflower lanyards, but it also installed hearing loops and improved its design with new curb cuts to make the structure more conducive.

Gatwick’s new training programs for staff. London’s second most-traveled airport announced an independent panel – comprising experts in the travel needs of disabled passengers – to help shape Gatwick’s accessibility strategy and improve services for disabled passengers.

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