The skies are about to get friendlier

The skies are about to get friendlier
Photo by: yenhoon (Stock Exchange)

Welcome to Disabled Travelers, and here’s hoping fall has reached your home, wherever it may be!

This is Si, and I’m back with another blog post: this week, we’re delving into news from the airline industry.

This is often a mixed bag, but there’s some great changes on the horizon: an international movement is building up to make airports more accessible, airlines more responsive, and the websites for both a lot easier for disabled visitors to navigate.

This is a natural next step after the big push for a Passenger Bill of Rights!

There have been a lot of encouraging developments lately, so let’s take a peek.

London Gatwick Website First to Meet Disability Travel Gold Standard: London is one of the most beloved travel destinations for visitors from America and all sorts of other places, so it’s great to see London Gatwick, one of the two local international airports, embracing diversity by striving to meet the “user friendliness” standards reviewed by Reduced Mobility Rights. RMR is a disability watchdog group helping to make sure that airports throughout the UK display information relevant to disabled travelers in a complete, concise, and helpful way. Let’s hope other UK airports follow suit soon.

Proposal: Make Airline Kiosks, Sites Accessible to Disabled: A plan by the U.S. Department of Transportation will establish guidelines for airlines to follow in expanding accessibility for the blind within their reservation and check-in functions. All the other content of airline sites would have to be upgraded as well, over a period of about a year. Once you reach the airport, you’d be treated to accessible boarding passes and luggage tags with Braille lettering, as well as more audio messaging in kiosks and airports. New screens will also be installed at an accessible height for wheelchair users.

A Call to Action from Disabled Travelers

Now, it’s great to see that the rest of the world is working hard on accessibility issues, but for those of us in the U.S., most travel is going to take place right here within the lower 48. So, bear in mind that the Transportation Department proposal above isn’t out of the woods yet. There’s a lot of backlash from lobbyists, those well-paid, ever-present folks always trying to help big businesses get off light with their social responsibilities.

The new rules have just been published in The Federal Register, which means that the 60-day period for public comment has just begun. You can head over to to submit your comment. The search function is a bit counterintuitive, so here’s a direct link: Nondiscrimination on Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at U.S. Airports. If that doesn’t work for you, you can actually find it on the front page search feature by selecting “Proposed Rule” and typing “kiosk” in the search box. Either way, this will give you the chance to make your comments heard.

Now, you don’t get to see what others have commented or how many people have done it, but if we all do our part, these important new rules are all the more likely to become part of the air travel scene. So this is Si, signing off and encouraging you to dash off a comment and tell your family and friends. Let’s work together to make air travel a safer, more accessible experience for everybody. Until next time, Disabled Travelers!


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Comment by smoothlandings

Posted on December 5th, 2011

I’m new to the forum and have worked in aviation providing ground services for a number of years. I have met many passengers who have been frustrated by the complex procedures employed by airlines (premium rate calls, INCAD/MEDIF forms etc) when booking airport/in-flight assistance?
I’m working with a group of people in UK to try to set up a system to specify passengers’ needs via questions in ordinary English and we’ll then do the conversion to Airline-speak.
Our aim to provide a free service (absolutely no premium rate phone calls!) to all airline passengers who wish to request assistance which will enable them to give specific details about their needs both on the ground and in the air. We can’t guarantee that these needs can or will always be met but at least we might improve the odds in your favour.
We are trying to get some feedback from people who have real experience of trying (usually without success) to fit their needs into airline forms or explain to some call-centre operative exactly the assistance they require. We’ve done a first draft of the questions (please be aware it also covers Visual and Hearing impairments) and put them into a “simple-English” questionnaire type survey.
We would appreciate any views from passengers or if you would like to have a go at the questionnaire as it is now (and hopefully suggest improvements) please follow this link
The more feedback we get, the greater our credibility when we take our proposals to the airlines so we would really value your help.
Please try to convert your negative experiences into suggestions for improvements – complaining sometimes makes us feel better but offering constructive suggestions is usually more rewarding.

Comment by Si

Posted on December 8th, 2011

Hi there,

Thanks for your comment. It sounds like your initiative would address a real problem in accessible air travel. I’d like to find out a little more about it, so I’ll be in contact. I’ll also let others know about the survey in an upcoming post.