Thursday, September 30, 2010

Universal Access In Airports Conference 2010

From October 19-20, 2010 the Open Doors Organization, IATA, and The Houston Downtown Crowne Plaza are sponsoring the 2010 Universal Access in Airports Conference, an annual event that provides "a unique opportunity for dialogue among the various stakeholders in the aviation industry." This 2-day conference will offer industry leaders a highly informative and educational forum to exchange ideas that address issues relating to accessibility to, in and around airports.

This conference is designed to address issues relating to accessibility in, around and to airports. We have created a forum for you to share and learn about best practices, ADA guidelines, and application of new technology.

Access Anything is proud to be a part of this event in leading a discussion panel on Service Animals in the Airport, assisting both airport managers and airline personnel in making a smooth travel experience for those that travel with working dogs and others.

Other Highlights of this Conference:

  • Explore effective training methods and tools available for airport and airline personnel and service providers as it relates to customer service and assistance for travelers with disabilities.
  • Discover new advancement in technology, accessible facility and website design and guidelines.
  • Learn effective ways to minimize gaps in service from baggage claim to ground transportation.
  • Hear testimonies and experiences of travel from people with disabilities.
  • Examine ways to incorporate process and policy for Emergency Preparedness. Working with all stakeholders of accessible air travel to achieve a plan that puts everyone on the same page.

Register at the Houston Crowne Plaza
Sponsorship Opportunities
For additional information contact Eric Lipp (773)388-8839 or email

Presented by

Friday, September 24, 2010

'Project Airport' lifts off today and shows patients how to navigate airport in a wheelchair

Wheelchair patients taught to navigate airport

CLEVELAND - It's hard enough trying to navigate through a crowded airport, but imagine having to do it from a wheelchair.

It’s an added challenge that can be scary and overwhelming.

Today, thanks to Continental Airlines and MetroHealth Medical Center, a handful of patients with spinal cord injuries got a chance to try out the whole air travel process with suggestions and guidance along the way.

Patients were met curbside and taught the best ways to check in, and, with the help of the TSA, maneuver through security.

The passengers boarded a plane and learned how personnel would handle transferring them from their wheelchair to their seat.

It gave 23-year-old Steve Elam the confidence he needed to plan a trip to Vegas with his grandmother next month.

"I'm pumped," he said with a smile.

Some family members also took the training with the patients in an effort to ease some of their own stress and anxiety.

Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Travelers with disabilities face obstacles at airports (USATODAY)

By Harriet Baskas, special for USA TODAY (repost)

With laws such as the Air Carrier Access Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, you might assume that people with disabilities no longer encounter obstacles at U.S. airports.

Unfortunately, that's not true. "Frankly, there isn't enough policing going on to go look at all these airports to see if they're 100% compliant," notes Tim Joniec of the Houston Airport System. "So at some airports it may take a traveler complaining about a service that isn't there before attention is paid to a problem."

And even if a traveler does lodge a complaint, "you'd be surprised at how many airports, including some enormous ones, just don't care," says Eric Lipp, the executive director of the Open Doors Organization (ODO), a non-profit that works with businesses and the disability community.

For those that do care, next month the Open Doors Organization (ODO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will host a conference about universal access in airports. On the agenda: tools, technology and training to help both airports and airlines do a better job of serving travelers with disabilities.

One topic sure to be discussed is money. About 55 million people in this country have some sort of disability. This community spends upwards of $14 billion a year on travel; more than $3 billion a year on airplane tickets alone.

With medical care and life expectancy improving, the number of travelers with disabilities is predicted to increase to more than 80 million in the next 20 years. Yet, when the Open Doors Organization surveyed adults with disabilities about travel, more than 80% reported encountering obstacles at airports and with airline personnel.

This group could include you in the future. The number of travelers who may encounter obstacles at airports is even larger, says ODO's Lipp, "If you consider the people who don't self-identify as having a disability." That might include aging boomers unwilling to admit they're having trouble seeing information on flight display boards or hearing the overhead announcements. And it can also include temporarily-disabled people, such a vacationer heading home from a ski trip with a broken leg.

"Revenues from this market could easily double," says Lipp, "If certain needs were met and more obstacles removed."

Universal access universally helpful

Lipp and others point out that removing obstacles at airports makes traveling easier for all passengers, not just those with disabilities. And there are plenty of examples of how making changes makes sense.

Curb cuts help those with strollers and wheeled luggage as much as they assist travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, canes or scooters. Family bathrooms are great for parents traveling with small children, but special lavatories at airports also offer grab bars and other amenities that a disabled traveler, or one traveling with an attendant, might find useful. Many general-use airport bathrooms are cleaner due to ADA-compliant self-flush toilets, automatic faucets and motion-sensing paper towel dispensers. And weave-through entryways reduce germs by eliminating the need for everyone to grab the door handle.

Visual-paging systems, like the high-tech ones now installed airport-wide at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, were originally created to assist hearing-impaired passengers. But all passengers can benefit from having an additional way to receive emergency messages and courtesy pages.

And of course, air passengers must be able to get to the gate before they can fly.

At George Bush Intercontinental Airport, passengers must now either walk or negotiate elevators, escalators or a bus when trying to reach Terminal A from Terminal B. That barrier will disappear in October when the airport's above-ground train finally links Terminal A to the other four terminals. "Those with mobility challenges will certainly benefit from this," says the airport's Tim Joniec, "But because 70% of our passengers make a connection at IAH, this will definitely be noticed by all travelers."

Some airlines embrace universal access

Airlines, which are responsible for providing wheelchair services at airports, have also made some special accommodations that end up smoothing out the journey for all passengers.

If you travel with a pet, you've probably noticed the recent proliferation of fenced, landscaped animal relief areas at airports. While pet parks are a welcome general-use amenity, they're popping up because the Carrier Access Act now requires airlines to make relief areas available for service dogs accompanying travelers.

Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air often uses ramps instead of stairs to board all passengers, not just those using wheelchairs, onto smaller Horizon planes at gates where jet bridges are unavailable. "That way no one has to negotiate steep steps to and from the airplane and everyone can enter the airplane the same way," says Ray Prentice, Alaska Airlines' director of Customer Advocacy.

And for the past three years, Continental Airlines (which will legally merge with United Airlines on October 1st) has been getting feedback and advice from a thirteen member advisory board made up of passengers with disabilities.

"Before this board, if we got a service complaint from a passenger with a disability, we'd tweak the policy so it wouldn't happen again," says Continental's disability programs manager Bill Burnell. "Now we can anticipate problem areas before they become complaints. And try to go beyond the minimum ADA requirements. We've learned there's a big difference between something being ADA compliant and it being universally accessible."

Travelers, have you faced challenges with access at airports? Which airports are the easiest to navigate? Share your stories in comments below.

Access Anything is a proud member of Continental Airline's Customers with Disabilities Advisory Board.