Gatwick Airport has launched a lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities who may require additional support when travelling through the airport.
The lanyard, which is voluntary for passengers with hidden disabilities and their families, will act as a discreet sign for staff that additional support or help may be required.
It was launched at Gatwick Airport as part of Dementia Awareness Week (15-21 May), and is supported by charities including the Alzheimer’s Society, The National Autistic Society (NAS) and Action on Hearing Loss.
Gatwick Airport has been working closely with charities and OCS, which provides 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.
As part of the initiative, Gatwick is increasing awareness and training of airport staff and appointing ‘workplace champions’ to provide enhanced assistance for passengers with hidden disabilities. Gatwick’s commitment follows its support of 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.
The lanyard will ensure staff are aware passengers 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.
Gatwick’s 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.”
Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said: “Air travel can be stressful and confusing for passengers with hidden disabilities and we know that concerns about crowded terminals and security checks can put some people off air travel all together.
“That is why I set industry leaders a challenge earlier this year, to see what airports and airlines could do to improve the travelling experience for these passengers with hidden disabilities. Gatwick are already doing great work in this area and it is fantastic to see them collaborating with leading charities to create a practical solution for making journeys better for passengers.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, 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.”
Daniel Cadey, the NAS’ autism access development manager, said: “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.”