A recent study by the Civil Aviation Authority found that due to accessibility worries, people with a disability or reduced mobility are ‘significantly less likely’ to have flown in the past year than those without a disability.
As a result, Airport Parking & Hotels (APH) has created a guide comparing the disabled facilities and services available at the top 20 busiest airports in the UK to help disabled travellers plan ahead when flying. The research can be found in the Know Before You Go section of the APH website at www.aph.com/disabledfacilities.
The research compares 20 UK airports including Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester and compares the facilities available for disabled travellers such as mobility access, areas for guide dogs, services for the hearing-impaired and disabled parking options.
For the hearing-impaired, all 20 of the airports researched have induction loop systems installed and five airports provide text phone facilities including London City, Edinburgh and London Stansted, with Belfast City George Best providing a text phone on request from the information desk. Airport staff who are proficient in British Sign Language Stage 1 are also available at London Stansted and Birmingham, with most of the staff at London Stansted also being trained in deaf awareness.
For those thinking about driving to the airport, disabled parking spaces are available at all of the 20 airports researched with eight airports offering free or discounted parking options for Blue Badge holders. Travellers wishing to take their Blue Badge on their onward journey should notify customer services with travellers at Leeds Bradford also needing to leave a photocopy of their Blue Badge in their car.
To assist travellers in wheelchairs or those using electronic mobility aids, 10 of the airports researched including Liverpool John Lennon and Belfast International provide specifically highlighted accessible doors for wheelchair users and East Midlands International offers a dedicated security lane for wheelchair users. However, those travelling with their own electric mobility aid should check the airport requirements prior to travel with three airports including London Gatwick, Liverpool John Lennon and London Luton all explicitly requiring electric mobility aids to be switched off before boarding the aircraft. Travellers also should keep in mind that all airports researched require at least 48 hours’ notice prior to travelling in order to plan and provide adequate assistance for disabled travellers.
Changing facilities for disabled travellers are available at nine of the airports researched including London Heathrow, London Stansted and Belfast City George Best. Travellers wanting to use changing facilities should keep in mind that this needs to be booked in advance at Birmingham and likewise travellers should bring their own sling if travelling from Manchester or Leeds Bradford as this is not provided. However, London Heathrow specifically offers disabled travellers access to the Lichfield Suite at Terminal 5, which features a height-adjustable changing bench, hoist and shower.
All airports researched allow guide dogs within the terminal buildings but travellers should be aware that guide dogs can only travel if they are registered with the Pet Travel Scheme and permitted by the airline. An area specifically designed for dog relief is also provided at Edinburgh and East Midlands International.
Additionally, to help special educational needs (SEN) children with the stress of a busy airport environment, Birmingham provides a sensory pod that is located within the Interactive Kid’s Area. Additionally, Newcastle allows access to the security fast track lane for families travelling with autistic children.