Equal and dignified access to air transport is covered by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So persons with disabilities have the same international rights as other citizens. This applies to situations such as accessibility, and full and effective participation and inclusion in society, including freedom of movement and freedom of choice.
Recently, ICAO Council approved the elevation of Recommended Practices to Standards concerning the air transport of passengers with disabilities. This means that they become binding on ICAO’s 193 Member States pursuant to the Convention on International Civil Aviation as they now become part of Annex 9 – Facilitation to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
The implication of this elevation from Recommended Practices to Standards is that governments now have an obligation to ensure that when travelling, persons with disabilities are provided with special assistance in order to ensure that they receive the same services customarily available to the general public. Now, this assistance shall be provided in a manner that respects the dignity of the individual. (https://unitingaviation.com/
news/security-facilitation/ aviation-standards-to-enhance- the-accessibility-of-air- transport-for-)
African airports will now have to rethink aviation infrastructure in the light of the above standard. This, of course, means that capital expenditures will have to be incurred as normalcy returns after the pandemic. The implications of this Standard will be that, hearing- and vision-impaired travellers are able to obtain flight service-related information in accessible formats. There has to be adequate parking for people with mobility needs. Civil works will be required to designate points for the pick-up and drop-off of persons with disabilities at airport terminal buildings. Also, access routes will have to be free of obstacles and be accessible. Lifts, deployment of technology and other appropriate devices should be made available in order to facilitate movement of persons with disabilities between the aircraft and the terminal, particularly when passenger boarding bridges are not being used.
The travel experience can become stressful when there are many procedures to follow and details to remember. For instance passengers will be encouraged to provide advanced notice when travelling with disability. Anyone with reduced mobility and who requires special attention may have stronger emotional feelings.
There are challenges managing people with disabilities. Staff who have the aptitude and skill will be hired. Other staff will have to be trained to ensure that quality of service is the same to the passenger with disability. As such everyone will be able to understand and manage them. Delays that can have a ripple effect on airline schedules can result where a passenger with reduced mobility is not planned for. While delays can have cost implications for the airline, the bad press that may result when such a passenger misses a flight can have damaging consequences for the brand of both the airline and airport involved. It is of course a source of added stress to the affected passenger.
To be able to ensure that there is a positive passenger experience, airports will have to leverage on technology to understand the customers and prepare in advance for their requirements. The design of websites for airports and airlines should consider such passengers with disabilities. Efforts towards accessibility and safety of people with reduced mobility will take on more attention.
Finally, the budget process, going forward, will bring up costs that will have to be incurred to ensure that the travel experience for the passenger with reduced mobility remains positive.
business a.m. commits to publishing a diversity of views, opinions and comments. It, therefore, welcomes your reaction to this and any of our articles via email: firstname.lastname@example.org