THE BLOG

Help For People With Hidden Disabilities At Airports

19/08/2016 11:24 | Updated 19 August 2016

There's one thing us Brits love to do isn't there... moan about the weather. So it may come as no surprise to you that 49% of us fly abroad at least once a year. But when you are disabled or have a loved one with a disability that is often not as appealing as it sounds and means that far fewer disabled people go on holiday than you may think.

But OCS & Gatwick Airport are working hard to try and change that and make air travel less stressful for disabled passengers.

Gatwick Airport has been working closely with UK charities and OCS, who provide passenger assistance services at Gatwick, to promote greater awareness and understanding of the challenges passengers with hidden disabilities can experience when travelling through busy environments and as a result of this have recently launched a lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities.

The lanyard (shown below) is a discreet way for staff to see that passengers may require additional support or time and will allow them to offer assistance.

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Passengers can choose whether to wear the lanyard throughout their time in the airport or just pop it on when they need to - eg. in queues, at security or anytime they are feeling vulnerable and could use some assistance.

They are entirely optional for the user so they won't feel uncomfortable having it on display permanently and could even have their parent or carer wear it instead.

The lanyard will ensure that airport staff are aware that a passenger may:

  • Need more time to process information or more time to prepare themselves at security
  • Need to remain with family at all times
  • May react to sensory overload i.e. be surrounded by too much information
  • Need staff to use clear verbal language as it may be difficult to understand facial expressions and/or body language
  • Need staff to be visual with instructions and use closed questions to assist passengers effectively through the airport
  • Benefit from a more comprehensive briefing on what to expect as they travel through the airport

This is such a positive step in making air travel more inclusive for everyone and might be the difference that makes someone take the plunge and book a holiday knowing that there will be someone at the airport who will be aware of their need for support straight away.

The lanyard itself is simple, it doesn't scream disability as you might expect (and which may put some people off using it). It has no specific information on it and there's no sign of the outdated disability logo we all love to hate!

It is simply a visible accessory, recognisable by those working at the airport. If a lanyard isn't suitable then there are also badge/pins and bracelets available instead with the same pattern.

This is a new concept and as with all new things there may be some teething problems but I think this is a really positive step and one that Gatwick and OCS can be very proud of implementing. Who knows, if this is a success perhaps it could be adopted across the country's other airports, or even other travel networks, where passengers with hidden disabilities need additional support.

If you require assistance because of a hidden disability and would like to get one of these lanyards please contact http://hidden.disability.at.gatwick@ocs.co.uk

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