British airports have been encouraged to offer better support for travellers with ‘hidden disabilities’, thanks to new guidelines produced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Compiled with assistance from a selection of disability organisations, the new CAA guidelines were designed to help lower the stress and anxiety levels of travellers with disabilities that might not be immediately obvious such as autism, mental health issues, hearing loss, visual impairment and dementia. The guidance focuses on helping disabled passengers move through the airport as well as whilst in the air.
A specific measure suggested by the CAA guidance is the advance provision of clear and detailed information about the airport in order to encourage familiarisation with the layout and environment; information which should be communicated in the form of images and audio to ensure it is as accessible as possible. The option of ‘open days’ where passengers with disabilities can visit the airport to ensure they are comfortable with the procedures and setting prior to the day they fly has also been highlighted.
The guidelines also suggest that passengers with hidden disabilities be given the option of wearing an identifying lanyard or bracelet if they so choose, to allow airport staff to recognise that they might need additional assistance. In fact, the guidelines also stressed that all airport staff should be expected to complete training in the awareness of hidden disabilities as well as in communication skills. Security staff, in particular, are encouraged to thoroughly explain the screening procedure and to allow an accompanying person to be present at all times during a security search.
Disability groups and UK airports have welcomed the guidelines, according to The Telegraph, with 30 British airports challenged to put these measures into action. The news site reported that Heathrow are working with both the Department of Health and the Alzheimer’s Society in a bid to become ‘the world’s first dementia friendly airport’.
Last year, around 254 million passengers journeyed through UK airports, 2.7 million of which had a disability or reduced mobility, according to research from the CAA. The measures are expected to influence changes and improvements to the services and assistance airports provide travellers with hidden disabilities over the next six months.
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