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UK airports begin improvements in services for passengers with hidden disabilities

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According to the latest report published by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, UK airports are making progress when it comes to aiding passengers with hidden disabilities such as autism, dementia and hearing loss.

The CAA, in a previous report published in December 2016, outlined various improvements that airports could make and following the publication of their latest report they are pleased with the progress being made.

Matt Buffey, who is head of Consumer Protection at the UK Civil Aviation Authority said that the “report highlights the significant achievements that airports have made in supporting disabled passengers, particularly those with hidden disabilities.”

“We know that people with hidden disabilities can find airports difficult and stressful places, in particular, the security search, and we are pleased to see how well airports have responded in improving the assistance they offer and tailoring to the needs of people with hidden disabilities.”

The report recognises the various improvements that have taken place across UK airports, which include:

  • Giving passengers the option to wear a lanyard or wristband to help make staff aware that they might need extra help in the security search area or elsewhere in the airport.

  • Providing enhanced disability awareness training packages for key customer-facing staff, including those at security search areas as well as those who provide direct assistance to people with disabilities.

  • Introducing family or assistance security lanes, which passengers with hidden disabilities can use, providing a less stressful and rushed experience.

  • Publishing a wide range of accessible information for people with hidden disabilities, including pictorial guides, videos and other online guides on what to expect at the airport, especially at the security search stage.

  • Consulting with disability organisations, including those representing people with hidden disabilities, on how the design of the assistance service can best meet the needs of certain groups of passengers.

Despite these improvements, the CAA says it would like airports to have quiet routes and quiet rooms where people can avoid the noise and disruption found in busy terminal buildings. Furthermore, the CAA wants airports to broaden their focus in terms of types of hidden disabilities that their assistance services cater for.

When Commenting on the report, Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg said, “Whilst there is still more to do, we should recognise the real progress that has been made by airports since the CAA introduced requirements for specific assistance services for people with non-visible disabilities. Through the government’s Aviation Strategy we will continue to work with the CAA and industry to improve the flying experience for all passengers.”

Ultimately, although advancements have been made in airports assistance services, particularly for people with hidden disabilities, many more improvements can be made, but steps are certainly being taken in the right direction.

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