Designing for all

Darron Freegard, Terminal Planning & Strategy Manager and Emily O’Connell, Customer Experience Manager at Perth Airport, speak to International Airport Review discussing the importance of providing an airport experience that is inclusive to all, as well as outlining their own achievements at the airport.

The COVID-19 pandemic reminded many of us how we took the ease of travelling by air for granted, and most would acknowledge a negative impact on our personal lives when this freedom was suddenly taken away. However, for some (principally older people or those living with disability) travel has always been inherently stressful and difficult, or even impossible.

In theory, everyone should be able to access aviation services easily, comfortably, and confidently, yet we know there are many barriers – visible and invisible – that can go unnoticed by those not directly affected. This is particularly the case for those passengers with hidden disabilities who may have a range of sensory and cognitive impairments.

Perth Airport context

Airports play a critical role in connecting people, businesses, and communities, arguably no more so than in Perth in western Australia. Air travel is a necessity for the local population, and those living in remote communities across the vast expanse of the state are highly dependent on Perth Airport – Australia’s western hub – for access to critical services and medical treatment.

Accessible journeys, not just accessible infrastructure

All journeys should be accessible, navigable, and usable to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, ability or disability. To this end, a holistic consideration of accessibility and inclusivity through the lens of an end-to-end journey, while addressing the needs of different user groups, is key to the airport design process.

Accessible infrastructure alone will not necessarily deliver an accessible journey. Treating travellers with dignity and respect at every touch point along the journey is critical. Airports also need to prioritise awareness training for staff, in addition to providing accessible facilities. A consistent level of service is vital. This requires working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders responsible for each journey element.

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