Help at Gatwick for hidden disabilities
Airport launches lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities reports Independent Living
Not all disabilities are equally visible, and whilst a customer in a wheelchair or one with an assistance dog may be quickly identified as perhaps needing additional support, those with hidden disabilities are, by definition, harder to spot.
Gatwick Airport has recently launched a trial for a lanyard which can be used as a discreet signal to staff that the wearer may need extra help.
System could be extended to other transport hubs
The lanyard is the first of its kind, and if it proves successful, could be adopted in other areas where passengers with hidden disabilities could benefit from additional support.
The airport worked with charities representing people with dementia, autism and impaired hearing, who are supporting the development of the lanyard – which is available free of charge, and on a purely voluntary basis from assistance desks at Gatwick.
At the same time, Gatwick has increased training and awareness amongst staff, and appointed “workplace champions”, as part of its support for the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge and the airport’s involvement with the Air Transport Group to improve the travelling experience for all passengers with hidden disabilities.
Some of the difficulties faced by passengers with hidden disabilities in busy environments such as an airport include:
• they may need more time to process information or to prepare themselves at security
• they might need to remain with their travelling companions at all times
• too much information may cause sensory overload
• they might find it difficult to interpret body language or facial expressions
• complex verbal instructions might be hard to follow
• coping with an unfamiliar environment might be a great challenge
Gatwick Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate said:
“We recognise that travelling through a busy airport can be a challenge for passengers with hidden disabilities and we want to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to welcome and assist all our passengers.
An important part of this commitment is ensuring greater awareness and understanding of hidden disabilities across the airport community, alongside improvements to the physical environment and the training of our staff so that they are well-equipped to recognise and respond to the needs of passengers.”
Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive, said:
“People with dementia and their family carers have a right to travel but often need help to be on hand. The initiative of OCS working with Gatwick Airport is one we applaud and look forward to other airports seeing what they can do.”
Another charity which has been closely involved is the National Autistic Society.
Daniel Cadey, their Autism Access Development Manager, had this to say:
“Going on holiday can be difficult for many autistic people where unfamiliar and overwhelming environments – like noisy, bustling airports – can cause extreme anxiety.
“We’re pleased to be working with Gatwick to support their lanyard initiative alongside additional staff training and awareness sessions which, taken together, can make a big difference for autistic people and help to better prepare them for their trip.”
Dr Roger Wicks, Action on Hearing Loss Director of Policy & Campaigns said:
“We welcome the introduction of the lanyard scheme at Gatwick Airport which will discreetly identify passengers with hearing loss to airport staff to help them have a smoother journey.
Action on Hearing Loss members have told us that missing out on audio announcements at the airport is a real issue which can lead to travel delays. We support this new initiative so that passengers with a hearing loss can be provided with the assistance that they need, especially in emergency situations where they can be particularly vulnerable.”