New lanyard launched to assist passengers with hidden disabilities

24 May 2016

Gatwick Airport has today launched a first-of-its-kind lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities who may require additional support when travelling through the airport.

The lanyard, which is entirely voluntary for passengers with hidden disabilities and their families, will act as a discreet sign for staff that additional support or help may be required.*  

If successful, it could be adopted across the country’s transport network, or other sectors, where passengers with hidden disabilities may benefit from additional support.

The lanyard, which was launched at Gatwick Airport as part of Dementia Awareness Week (15 – 21st May 2016), is being supported by leading charities like the Alzheimer’s Society, The National Autistic Society and Action on Hearing Loss.  

Gatwick Airport has been working closely with UK charities and OCS, who provide passenger assistance services at Gatwick, to promote greater awareness and understanding of the challenges passengers with hidden disabilities can experience when travelling through busy environments.

As part of the initiative, Gatwick is increasing awareness and training of airport staff and appointing ‘workplace champions’ to provide enhanced assistance for passengers with hidden disabilities. Gatwick’s commitment follows its support of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge and the airport’s involvement with the Air Transport Group to improve the travelling experience for all passengers with hidden disabilities.   

The lanyard will ensure staff are aware passengers may:   

  • Need more time to process information or more time to prepare themselves at security
  • Need to remain with family at all times
  • May react to sensory overload i.e. be surrounded by too much information
  • Need staff to use clear verbal language as it may be difficult to understand facial expressions and/or body language
  • Need staff to be visual with instructions and use closed questions to assist passengers effectively through the airport
  • Benefit from a more comprehensive briefing on what to expect as they travel through the airport

Gatwick Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate said:   

“We recognise that travelling through a busy airport can be a challenge for passengers with hidden disabilities and we want to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to welcome and assist all our passengers.

An important part of this commitment is ensuring greater awareness and understanding of hidden disabilities across the airport community, alongside improvements to the physical environment and the training of our staff so that they are well-equipped to recognise and respond to the needs of passengers.”

Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said:

“Air travel can be stressful and confusing for passengers with hidden disabilities and we know that concerns about crowded terminals and security checks can put some people off air travel all together. 

That is why I set industry leaders a challenge earlier this year, to see what airports and airlines could do to improve the travelling experience for these passengers with hidden disabilities. Gatwick are already doing great work in this area and it is fantastic to see them collaborating with leading charities to create a practical solution for making journeys better for passengers.”

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive, said:

“People with dementia and their family carers have a right to travel but often need help to be on hand. The initiative of OCS working with Gatwick Airport is one we applaud and look forward to other airports seeing what they can do.”

Daniel Cadey, the National Autistic Society’s Autism Access Development Manager, said:

“Going on holiday can be difficult for many autistic people where unfamiliar and overwhelming environments - like noisy, bustling airports - can cause extreme anxiety.

“We’re pleased to be working with Gatwick to support their lanyard initiative alongside additional staff training and awareness sessions which, taken together, can make a big difference for autistic people and help to better prepare them for their trip.”

Dr Roger Wicks, Action on Hearing Loss Director of Policy & Campaigns said:

“We welcome the introduction of the lanyard scheme at Gatwick Airport which will discreetly identify passengers with hearing loss to airport staff to help them have a smoother journey.

Action on Hearing Loss members have told us that missing out on audio announcements at the airport is a real issue which can lead to travel delays. We support this new initiative so that passengers with a hearing loss can be provided with the assistance that they need, especially in emergency situations where they can be particularly vulnerable.”

*The lanyard is purely voluntary and passengers who require assistance are always welcome to approach a member of staff who will be happy to assist.

Lanyards will be available free of charge from Gatwick’s assistance desks. 

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