Key Words: Access, Accessible Tourism, Disability, Handicap Travel, Muscular Dystrophy
There are many barriers for individuals who identify as being disabled, which makes airport access and navigation difficult (Sensalis, 2015). In order to understand this, first accessible tourism needs to be understood. Accessible tourism can most simply be defined as â€œtravel that accommodates people of different abilitiesâ€ (Campbell, 2016). In 2008 an estimate showed that roughly 20% of the adult population in the United Kingdom had some form of a disability (Department of Transportation). From 2006 to 2011 there was a 13% increase in the amount of wheel chairs being requested at airports (Lipp, 2015, 391).
According to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995, now covering only Northern Ireland, there are requirements set forth for businesses to follow so as not to discriminate against persons of disability. If these requirements are not met, either for all or part of a facility, it is the responsibility of the provider to remedy the situation. (The National Archives, 1995). Part three of this act covers goods, services, facilities and premises with an exemption for travel services. Not all forms of transportation are included within the exemption however, airports being one of them (Sentinella, 2006, i), holding them to a higher standard. The rest of the United Kingdom is covered by the Equality Act of 2010 (RNIB 2015). This combines a wider range of topics that had mostly been their own acts into one to provide equal opportunities for everyone, disabled individuals being one of the groups focused on.
Primary research was conducted for the purposes of the project to gain an insight on the opinions an individual with a disability has of airports. A one-on-one, semi structured phone interview was conducted. Steve, 54, suffers from Muscular Dystrophy (MD). MD is a disease that targets muscle groups and weakens them (Kalumuck et al., 2013). The type of MD that Steve has makes it particularly difficult for him to walk up and down stairs, lift heavier items, and walk long distances.
When asked if he felt discriminated against while in airports, the answer was a confident no. There was only once where he felt belittled because of his disability back in 2006. Steve emphasized that passengers and personnel alike understand that he has a disability, and are patient and helpful when needed. When asked if he felt any extra stress due to his disability when he was flying, Steve elaborated that, in reality, he felt it was less stressful for him to fly because of all the policies put in place to aid handicapped individuals through the airport.
In an interview on BBC Radio, Mic Scarlet said, â€œthe concept of travel is still one that strikes the fear of God into usâ€, referring to disabled individuals as a whole, and his difficulties while flying (Miller and Scarlet, 2014). Employees will help the passenger have a comfortable and happy experience, and roughly 80% of disabled passengers were satisfied with the quality of service provided to them (Sensalis, 2015).
In his article, Lipp (2015) states that there are four potential areas for initiatives that can help. Technology (through research and development), fixed or built environment (the way the actual buildings are constructed), social and community responsibility (how the airport interacts with local disability groups), and training (Daniels et al., 2005). Improving in these areas would greatly aid in disabled passengerâ€™s experiences while at an airport.
In July of 2006 Regulation (EC) 1107/2006 came into play. This was specific to protect the rights of disabled people traveling by air. All responsibility for meeting the disabled passengerâ€™s needs rests with the airport (Nyman, 2007). A report published by the EasyJet Special Assistance Advisory Group (2012) outlines the responsibilities of the airport for disabled passengers. They are required to identify all areas within the airport that disabled passengers may need assistance in. Assistance should be available throughout the entire airport for both arrivals and departures. This includes boarding and disembarking from the plane, as well as wheelchair assistance by taking a passenger anywhere they need to go (EasyJet Special Assistance Advisory Group, 2012).
Each experience held by a handicapped individual is going to be different. Running themes from the research indicate that travel with a disability can lead to more stress, while in the primary research conducted for the report, it was found that the airports are so well set up to aid with accessibility that it relieves stress of travel.
Damschroder, C. (2016) Experiences at Airports [telephone call]. Conversation with S. Damschroder, 24 April 2016.
Lipp, E. (2015) What Creates Access and Inclusion at Airports?. Journal of Airport Management, 9(4) 390-397. Available from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=a839589c-4f14-4dd1-af21-57b7e7a0d936%40sessionmgr4001&vid=8&hid=4113 [accessed 24 April 2016].
Sentinella, J. (2006) Access to Air Travel for Disabled People: 2005 Monitoring Study. Department for Transportation, Mobility and Inclusion Unit. Available from http://www.accessibletourism.org/resources/2_access_air_travel_trl_monitoring_en.pdf [accessed 24 April 2016].