Friday, October 22, 2010

Universal Access in Airports Conference

Houston, TX
October 19-20, 2010

The Open Doors Organization (ODO) out of Chicago, IL hosted its bi-annual (/2yrs) Universal Access in Airports Conference at the Crown Plaza Houston Downtown this week, welcoming over 100 airline, airport, government, and service provider personnel to come together and present on vital topics on accessibility for travelers with disabilities such as legal rights, technology, service animal relief areas, websites, emergency preparedness, and training. 

These topics are of vital importance now and even more so in the coming years; as of January 1st, the 79 million baby boomers in the US alone will start turning 65 at an alarming rate of 10,000 per day.  By 2020 50% of that group will be traveling with a disability.  Just five years later, that number will grow to 75% and will make up 40% of the public that travels by air.  By the year 2050, 25-30% of the international population will be over 60 as well.  Improving airports' and airlines' accessibility will not be optional, it will be vital.  Assisting the these providers to get on the right track now, instead of playing catch-up later, will be a matter of survival for the companies.

Because these past two days had so much important information to report on, we will take this space to update you on the various topics touched upon in this conference over the remaining weeks of 2010. But the largest message we personally took away from this conference was that while these organizations may not appear fully accessible to you now, they ALL desire to go above and beyond the requirements of the legal requirements.  They collectively see the gaps in universal design across the board and are eager to learn how to make this type of travel as seemless as possible for traveler.  They are eager to work with companies and consultants who are excelling- some of these are not even US agencies and examples. 

We are proud to be a part of this progress; it was an absolute pleasure meeting the various airport Customer Service Coordinators, Disability Outreach Officers, Boeing Engineers, and US Access Board Accessibility Specialists.  This was a room full of bright minds, progressive thinkers, and dedicated researchers, who WILL change this world in the near future.  We're excited to share the progress with you over the next few weeks.

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