Accessibility at Airports

Air travel is an integral aspect of the modern world.

Flying, on the other hand, can be an uncomfortable, frightening, or downright painful experience for passengers with physical or hidden disabilities. It’s essential to ensure dependable, dignified air travel available to all passengers, regardless of their ability.

In a complex location like an airport, an effective signage system is critical to meet their needs and can be easily implemented:

– People with reduced visual ability can use audio cues to help them find strategic points of interest such as entrances, counters, and restrooms.

– Usage of Braille signs, larger letters, and brighter colours on display screens.

– Using shapes and infographics to communicate in a better and more effective way!

– Using technology and apps to help in better navigation.

– Installing an easy-to-understand signage system benefits all travellers, including those with reduced or no ability or mobility.

– A well-trained and approachable staff is essential . Despite the fact that it can be difficult to achieve because airports are plagued by high turnover, which reduces the efficiency of their services.

– It’s critical to organise a good training programme when it comes to accommodating passengers with disabilities.

Air travel can be made accessible, safe and dignified for everybody including for those with reduced mobility. It would take a collective effort to implement a large scale change and train staff to ensure accessibility in every aspect.

The concept of Accessible Tourism

Accessible tourism is a concept that ensures that tourist destinations and related services are accessible to all people regardless of their reduced mobility, age, non-impairment et cetera

Accessible tourism can be applied to a large number of public and private owned tourist places.

Accessible tourism consists of universal design in terms of services, tourist spots and related products which can be used by everyone including those with reduced mobility, vision, cognitive function with equal comfort and ease.

It ensures dignified living and equitable access to all.

Most tourist places are not accessible or accessible enough which makes it an arduous journey for those with reduced mobility or ability to navigate that place around.

Accessibility can be ensured by –

  • Adapting to more accessible hotel rooms
  • Wheelchair facilities at tourist spaces
  • Accessible airport or station or bus stand navigation
  • A dedicated professional staff for those with reduced mobility or ability
  • Accessible eateries, restrooms and public tourist spots
  • Making streets and street parking more accessible to be used by everyone
  • Elevators with appropriate measurements which allows everyone to be able to use it equally
  • Accessible and adjustable equipments or products for eg. — toilet raisers, adjustable drinking tap basin etc.

These simple yet significant changes can transform the tourism places into being more accessible by everyone — ensuring their self sufficiency and dignity.

What are accessibility apps?

Accessibility apps are mobile apps that make a device and the environment around more accessible to people with disabilities. Apps that improve the accessibility of a device or technology for people with reduced mobility and ability are known as accessibility apps.

What are some accessibility apps?

Varied kinds of apps are accessibility apps — Word processors, media players, console games, photo editors, accounting applications, and flight simulators web browsers. It refers to making products and environments more accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility apps can also include adding features to a current version of software or hardware to make it more accessible.

A number of Accessible towns around the world use accessibility apps to ensure that those with reduced mobility live a safe life. The use of these apps has enabled them access to spaces that were previously inaccessible due to safety reasons.

For example apps that give audio cues to alert a person about entrance, exits, elevators etc. can be absolutely powerful.

In Seattle, the accessibility app — AccessMap allows the users to enter a destination and receive suggested routes based on their customisedchoices. The app also allows them to know about uphill or downhill inclines. It also gives information about sloped roads or flat roads and streets with a slope of 10% or more.

Accessibility apps can prove to be a major boost to creating accessible physical spaces enabling people with reduced or no mobility to go about their lives in an empowered and equal way.

What does Accessible town mean

What would seem like a normal, comfortable open space for some people might be filled with hurdles and safety concerns for other people. Whether it is the stairs, elevators, curbs, sloped streets-pedestrians with produced mobility will always find it difficult to go about their normal lives in a city that is not accessible enough.

Although accessible infrastructure is being built at a more rapid pace than ever-a lot of urban planning still is very inaccessible to those with reduced mobility, and there needs to be breakthrough changes in the architectural planning as well as adoption of universal design that offers sustainability and accessibility to each member of the community.

Accessible city would ensure that each person can take part socially, economically and are not marginalised because you’re in accessibility of the infrastructure.

Accessibility can be ensured by the following means

  • Following universal design in creating and maintaining entrance, exits, common public places like sports centre, schools, libraries et cetera
  • Implementing laws that allow people with reduced mobility or no mobility to utilise resources in the same manner as others.
  • Accessible transport as well as social inclusion would allow these people to utilise the communities physical infrastructure as well as the opportunities offered for their benefit.
  • By building wheelchair friendly offices, safe elevators, technology that helps people with reduced obility to navigate the city in a better way, building low height receptions at public spaces-all of these measures can play such a powerful role in ensuring that the most important places in the town are accessible.

Accessibility in Transportation

In the context of accessibility, the ease with which a person can reach or use a service is essential to realise access for all. Urban and rural areas alike rely on transportation as one of their primary means of getting around. It is an avenue for socialisation; it aids in the accomplishment of economic goals and other significant day to day tasks; and it provides a ground for individuals to become truly self-sufficient and to live dignified lives.

Through the ability to navigate a city or a country in an accessible manner, accessible transportation facilitates accessible education and participation in society for people with disabilities.

Creating more accessible modes of transportation for those with limited mobility, whether it’s buses, trains, or airports, is the concept that stems from accessible transportation — making transportation more accessible for those with limited mobility. Allowing for more accessible travel on both an inter- and intra-national level.

Simple yet impactful measures can allow accessibility through transportation for example-

  • People who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids, elderly people who are unable to safely climb stairs, or children will greatly benefit from a lift or ramp when boarding a bus.
  • Reader boards, instructions in braille and information counters at regular intervals would help a large number of people with reduced hearing, reduced vision and reduced mobility.
  • People with visual impairments or those with reduced mobility or other travellers who need assistance identifying their stop can listen to audio cues.
  • By incorporating curb cuts, people who use wheelchairs or other wheeled equipment like strollers or rolling luggage will have easier access to pedestrian walkways.

How can communities be made more accessible?

People with reduced mobility or ability go through a host of problems while interacting with the environment on a daily basis. This group of people not only include those with reduced ability but also elderly, pregnant women, children and this includes a wide range of people from young to old. Reduced accessibility can prove to be a major obstacle in virtually every form of life for example at schools or educational premises, supermarkets, government offices, workplaces, hospitals and as a community it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that not just the physical space but also the online space and the attitude of people makes the community more accessible.

Simple measures can be taken and can be applied at a number of places to ensure accessibility –

● Rams which are made of antiskid tiles that are appropriate for both wheeling and walking in all premises including schools, hospitals, government offices, banks would ensure that those with reduced mobility can access these essential places and live a dignified life.

● Accessible parking spaces play a major role in all spaces both public and private because most of the time people with reduced mobility hesitate to drive because of lack of resources and safety. Therefore accessible parking space will allow them to live life on their own terms.

● Entries and exits of any institution should be made accessible with guarding lights, tiles as well as audio cues and braille signage to ensure that a wide spectrum of people are able to access the building safely.

It is the responsibility of everyone insulting people living in the community to raise awareness as well as take measures to ensure that those around them specially people living with reduced mobility are able to live life to the fullest potential.

Creating An Accessible Workplace

An all inclusive workplace or office is accessible and its definition continues to evolve as we become increasingly aware of accessibility and its related universal designs it not only is limited to physical accessibility but also includes wheelchair ramps, braille signage and accessible washrooms along with accessibility in the online space as well. Also known as web accessibility and digital accessibility in terms of communication, assistive devices etc. Behavioural awareness is also one of the very key components of accessibility. It involves that each individual through their attitude or behaviour plays a role in making sure about the self reliance of all

Benefits from an accessible workspace based on universal design measures is not just limited to one person but has a far reaching impact on all. It ensures that everyone plays an equal role in productivity and economic profits of the organisation.

Businesses benefit from accessible workplaces because they increase productivity, ensure that a larger spectrum of talent can apply for, keep, and advance in employment.

Accessibility at work place can be through –

  • Physical and infrastructural accessibility — to create an accessible environment through well designed restrooms, cafeterias, work station, entrance and exit, hall way, elevators etc.
  • Digital accessibility — In a largely modernised and technology kill areas — lack of digital accessibility can prove to be a major hurdle for those with reduced ability, assistive technology in terms of communications, Web accessibility, telecommunications, Software applications and operating systems, Desktop and portable computers etc. play an immense role in ensuring that those with reduced mobility and/or ability are as productive and comfortable as their counterparts!!
  • Behavioural awareness-it’s the responsibility of the society to make everyone as self-reliant and self independent as possible and this comes through treating them equally. Behavioural awareness ensures that everyone including those with reduced mobility are treated with dignity such that there is absolutely no room for stereotypes or indifference.

Inclusive Education will lead to an inclusive world

an image of Ms. Sminu Jindal Founder & Chairperson, Svayam

Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder & Chairperson, Svayam

If we are taught from a very young age to understand that disability is not a disease and that it can occur to anyone, then schools, communities and workplaces would become much more inclusive, which can help alter the realities of nations. Broken down to its core, this ‘social divide’ speaks of a fear of differences. Children who grow in diverse communities, which include people with disabilities, playing an active role, will create a society of tomorrow which recognizes that, at heart, we are all the same- human beings with needs, hopes, and dreams.

Data Speaks
According to the World Bank, in India, 1 out of 12 households has a person with disability. Today 65% population of our country is below 35 years of age. Imagine 30 years from now when India will have a substantial percentage of elderly population. With such a prevalence of people with reduced mobility in the country, the need for an inclusive environment cannot be swept aside. Also, as per the 2011 census, 45% of India’s disabled population is illiterate. Such astonishing numbers not only impact the lives of these children but the future of our nation is adversely affected as well. Hence, the education system needs to be made inclusive for all children with special needs, so that they can be an active and contributing part of our society that does it proud.

Breaking Attitudinal Barriers
Here, I am not just talking about accessible infrastructure but a paradigm shift in the attitudes of the people, starting with the kindergartner to the teacher in educational institutions. Generally, schools refrain from taking in students with disabilities because of the stigma attached to it. This has to change; for this, children need to be sensitized towards their schoolmates with disabilities. Educators need to be properly trained to nurture children with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers in the same classroom. Inclusivity in education not only helps to work towards these goals but to also grow a smart and empathetic generation of tomorrow that breaks down the barriers of differences and start celebrating differences instead of ignoring or staying away..

Often, you will notice a child with disability staying apart from classmates or not taking part in regular school activities as other children tend to refrain from playing with children with disabilities because they lack the understanding that there is no difference in spirit between those who have no disabilities and those who have.. The school environment needs to be welcoming to all students and not make certain individuals feel abnormal. Studying in a regular school not only helped me mingle with other students but also helped them to be able to see me beyond my wheelchair. Our educational books should also include a chapter on civil rights of people with disabilities and it should be taught in the schools, so that students with disabilities may know their rights; it will also help other students in accepting children with disabilities as ‘equals’, and not as ‘different’.

Later, when we enter universities, students with disabilities are often reduced to doing courses online; but can bookish knowledge really replace real-life experiences? The internet is a useful tool but it does not replace real-life interactions needed to experience life fully and important moments that shape youth and sharpen their skills.

Accessibility boosts Economy 
We all together inevitably shape our economy for the better through our daily activities like education, sports, tourism, transport and employment. The economy is not just about job opportunity, but we also need to see how indirectly it affects the income generation. Therefore, it is of absolute urgency that people are not left out from these important aspects of life due to their disabilities or reduced mobility.

It does not take much to make a workplace inclusive if people, despite their challenges, choose to step out and work. Every building should have lifts, ramps and accessible washrooms, so that people with reduced mobility can enjoy uninterrupted mobility. It all starts with the basics; public transport and infrastructure should be accessible to allow people with reduced mobility to access buildings and travel with ease.

Accessible workplaces help all staff
I feel it’s not the people who are disabled; it is the environment which makes them disabled. Accessible infrastructure helps everyone. People with reduced mobility should not be treated as different or inadequate and they should not be made to feel that they are a burden, or an extra responsibility. They should be the proud contributing members of our society to the nation’s GDP. In fact, making workplaces accessible allows all employees to take fewer leaves in case of injuries, sicknesses, and pregnancy etc and their recuperating time will not remain unproductive. Elderly with reduced mobility who are forced to sit at home can also join organizations/schools and contribute their vast wisdom/experiences in nation building and to simply keep them active, if buildings and transportation are accessible.

Accessibility & Entrepreneurship
As the Chairperson of ARUNIM – Association for Rehabilitation under the National Trust Initiative in Marketing, I had worked towards economic empowerment of persons with disabilities and successfully created 6 entrepreneurs, who are today creating their own income and supporting their families. In this growing economy, where India is one of the few countries with considerable growth story, start-ups represent a wonderful opportunity for all. When persons with disabilities are given the same tools to success as the rest of the population, they can too start successful businesses through their holistic education and their own lived and professional experiences. Samuel Mani is a wonderful example of how people are not ready to settle down with less. He has cerebral palsy and had the zest to work, but he was told that he could only work if he came walking. This experience did not stop him, and today he is an inspiring entrepreneur.

New India, Inclusive India
I have met people whose family members consider them as an added responsibility, as they need to arrange additional support for their transportation, or because they are unemployed which very often results from a lack of accessibility in the public transport and infrastructure. We need to understand that an elderly person is also adding to the economy by paying for the conveyance from going from point A to point B, thus inevitably giving back to the economy. It is exactly why things are man-made; so that it helps, assists, and allows them to make changes in transport and infrastructure. Infrastructure is made for the people; hence why change people, let’s change the infrastructure itself if it is not helping all to access places. The new, stronger India that is being designed by people has to be inclusive.

Experiences make you powerful, and what happens when you get out. Abilities or disabilities, we all need exposure to thrive and discover the purpose of our lives. We need to first look at the education system, then businesses, and the workplace environment to transform the current thought surrounding disabilities, reduced mobility and accessibility.

The way forward
The more the infrastructure is enabling, more people can go out, which translates into more employment, more tourism, park visits, museums outings. We have to break the myth with the help of accessibility that older people do not spend. Accessible infrastructure will give the opportunity to all to earn their livelihood with full gusto, increasing the disposable income of households; this will help not only boosting the country’s GDP but also family’s happiness quotient.

The time has come when our leaders and management in schools, workplaces and communities alike shed their biases and make people with reduced mobility and those with disabilities a part of the growing economy that promises so much. With enabling infrastructure, you can study, step out, work and explore opportunities like anyone else. . We have to remember that in this world, everyone has their own role to play. So, let no barriers stop them.

  – Authored by Ms. Sminu Jindal