More than 40 local families with a family member who has a hidden disability - and their carers - attended Gatwick on Sunday (April 8) for an event designed to make airports feel like ‘a less scary place’.
Held in the North Terminal, Gatwick’s Accessibility Day helped to familiarise people with a hidden disability – and their families and carers - with the sights and sounds of an airport so they have a practical overview of airport processes before they travel.
To simulate the airport environment Sunday’s event included:
· Staff from airlines - Virgin Atlantic and TUI - taking families through the check in process
· Gatwick’s Special Assistance Services team, Wilson James, providing buggy rides
· Gatwick staff taking families through the security process in a fun and relaxed way
· Border Force officials introducing some of their search dogs
· Police officers and a fire engine were also on hand to replicate the entire airport experience
Currently around 19% of the UK population have a disability and 11% a hidden disability. As much as 7% of the UK population is thought to avoid air travel because of a disability.
Gatwick says it is aiming to be the most accessible airport in the UK and is currently engaging with a broad range of disability groups to help ensure that the airport makes its services accessible for everyone.
Nikki Barton, Head of Terminals, Gatwick Airport, said: “Our Accessibility Days have proved very popular and I would like to thank all those who gave up their Sunday to make it happen. Feedback suggests that families find these events a very useful and practical way of making the airport feel like a less scary place before they travel.
“Events like this are also a great way of hearing about what our passengers find useful or would like to see at Gatwick to make their journey more pleasant and less stressful. We know that we will not get it right all of the time, but we are determined to keep talking to disability groups and passengers to encourage more feedback and develop new learning mechanisms to help us constantly improve our accessibility services, facilities and training.”
Maria Cook, Gatwick’s Autism Ambassador, said: “I would like to thank everyone from organisations across the airport who volunteered their free time to be part of our latest Accessibility Day.
“I am extremely proud to be involved in events like these and to have played a part helping Gatwick to become the first UK airport to be accredited as Autism Friendly and retain its accreditation for the second year running. An important part of the accreditation processes was introducing a Hidden Disability Lanyard and it’s extremely encouraging to hear that airports from across the world are contacting Gatwick for information to help them introduce the lanyard schemes of their own.”