A new lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities, first introduced at Gatwick Airport to assist passengers with hidden disabilities, is set to be rolled out to other UK airports following a successful trial over the summer.
The number of passengers with hidden disabilities requesting assistance at Gatwick Airport has risen by 47% year-on-year since the launch of the voluntary lanyard in May this year by OCS Group as passengers and their families feel more confident about flying, or requesting assistance at the airport.
Over 1,000 passengers with hidden disabilities such as dementia, autism or hearing loss use passenger assistance services at Gatwick Airport each month. The introduction of a distinctive lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities enables travellers to discreetly identify themselves to staff to ensure tailored help and support can be offered throughout their journey.
Assistance staff at Gatwick have been trained to provide appropriate assistance when they see a passenger is wearing the unique lanyard or badge. For example, staff are able to support passengers who may need more time to process information or to prepare their belongings ahead of security screening.
The project is part of a wider initiative by OCS Group, who provide assistance services at Gatwick and nine other airports in the UK and Ireland, to deliver improved support services. The Challenging for Change report, commissioned by OCS, recorded the experiences of 543 passengers with disabilities and made recommendations for improvement. The report has been followed up with workshops at airports around the UK at which airlines, airport operators, baggage handlers, disability groups and support service providers exchanged ideas to address the issues. Gatwick Airport and OCS Group have been working with leading UK charities, including the Alzheimer’s Society, The National Autistic Society and Action on Hearing Loss.
Nikki Barton, Head of Terminals and Passenger Assistance at Gatwick said:
“We recognise air travel can sometimes be a stressful experience for passengers with hidden disabilities so it is welcome news that more passengers are aware that additional assistance is available at Gatwick since the introduction of the lanyard scheme. An important aspect of the scheme has been the uptake in training for frontline staff so that they can better understand and support the individual needs of passengers when travelling through Gatwick and ensure every journey is memorable for all the right reasons.”
“OCS Group has over 50 years of experience in the aviation sector and we are committed to delivering excellence for passengers requiring additional assistance or support” said Andy Boyd of OCS Group. “The lanyard scheme is the result of extensive consultations with disability groups and means that misinterpretations of specific travel needs in the case of hidden disabilities can be minimised, ensuring respectful, dignified and efficient support for all passengers.”
OCS has provided persons with reduced mobility (PRM) services at Gatwick Airport since November 2010. The introduction of the lanyard scheme was supported by extensive staff training, with NVQ Level 2 training in dementia care is now standard for OCS teams in the departure lounges. In addition, over 50 Dementia Friends Champions have been trained throughout the airport, who in turn train Dementia Friends, in line with the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme.
Sue Rennie, Alzheimer’s Society Services Manager for West Sussex North, said: “People with dementia and their family carers often find the prospect of travelling daunting – particularly so when faced with unfamiliar and busy airports. The lanyard scheme for passengers with hidden disabilities introduced at Gatwick offers reassurance to those that choose to use it and helps airport staff be aware that they may require additional support and will improve their travel experience at the airport.”
Download the 'Challenging for Change' report.
OCS Group welcomes consultations, comments and feedback on the proposed recommendations, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Passengers wanting to request a hidden disability lanyard or to discuss tailored assistance available at Gatwick can email email@example.com.
Passengers can also collect a lanyard at any of the airport’s assistance desks.