Lonely Planet Writer

How UK airports are improving travel for passengers with hidden disabilities

A new report published by the UK Civil Aviation Authority has concluded that UK airports are making progress when it comes to helping passengers with hidden disabilities. The CAA says that, having given the airports up to one year to make the necessary changes and enhancements to their assistance services it outlined in a previous report in December 2016, it is very pleased with the progress made to date.

Airports are improving travel for passengers with hidden disabilities. Image: Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Hidden disabilities include autism, dementia and hearing loss and many other conditions that are not immediately obvious. The UK airports report that they have implemented new assistance services in key areas and developed existing services further with a focus on the needs of people with hidden disabilities. The CAA says that leading organisations representing the interests of these people have told it that high numbers of passengers are already benefiting from new and enhanced assistance services directed specifically at people with hidden disabilities.

Preparation is key to speed through security. Image by JGI/Tom Gril/Getty Images

“We are pleased to note that all airports have introduced schemes that allow people to wear an optional lanyard or wristband or other discreet identifiers to identify that they might need extra help at the security search area or elsewhere in the airport,” it says. “This can also allow a passenger to use an alternative security channel or move to a quieter channel. Other services include introducing family or assistance security lanes, which provide a less stressful and rushed experience, and 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.

Skip the rush to security with a new app feature. Image by Jetta Productions/Getty Images

In addition, airports report that they are providing enhanced disability awareness training for customer agents and security staff, so that the training focuses on assisting people with both visible and non-visible disabilities. The CAA says it would like airports to create more quiet routes and quiet rooms where people can avoid the noise and disturbances often found in busy terminal buildings. It also wants them to broaden their focus in terms of the types of hidden disabilities that their assistance services cater for.

Passengers at O'Hare airport in Chicago wait in line for TSA screening
The new measures will require passengers to place large devices in separate bins for screening. Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images

“We have noted that much of the focus from airports has been on improving assistance for people with autism and dementia,” it says. “In the latter part of last year, we have seen some signs of airports broadening out their reach by speaking to organisations that support ostomates (Stomawise and Colostomy UK) and those with vision impairment, amongst many others. We look to airports to continue to broaden their networks.”

To read the full report, see here.