Before travelling, it is wise to research accessibility at any travel stations you may pass through, including airports. The UK’s airports are already a monstrous undertaking for travellers, especially for those with mobility issues. For example, in the UK, current regulations mean that wheelchairs are not allowed past a plane’s door. The issue of passenger safety and dignity has, of course, been a hot topic ever since. It has been put to the government that these regulations need to be reconsidered. But until that time, wheelchair users need to ensure they have enough understanding of an airport’s accessibility facilities before they set off. Living-independently explores further.
Currently, wheelchairs can only be stored in the hold of a plane and are not allowed on board. The advice from Gov.uk outlines the importance of contacting your airline as soon as possible should you intend on travelling with a wheelchair or mobility aid; however the impact of being without mobility assistance are often difficult to resolve. Typically, airline policies should include some guidance or help with the boarding process to ensure that the traveller feels safe. Travel is a notoriously wealthy industry, and ABTA have found that there are currently more than 11 million disabled people in the UK, which underlines the need for an increase in inclusivity.
According to airlines, the reason for wheelchairs being stored in the hold is down to health and safety. But sensitivity on the matter is sometimes lacking in practice. A common problem faced by travellers is that their mobility aid may not fold up, and therefore cannot be stored, leaving the customer relatively helpless. There have also been numerous reports of chairs becoming damaged while in motion, which prompts questions of the treatment of accessible travel and the measures currently in place to support it.
It has been suggested that airplanes ought to have designated wheelchair areas on board. While wheelchairs can be used safely to navigate the airport terminal itself, the issues faced on board can be avoided with enough planning ahead of travel. Requesting an aisle seat is helpful for getting to and from the toilet facilities, allowing for mobility while flying.
There are many stories of people being left stranded due to an airline’s mishandling of wheelchair accessibility needs. Multiple organisations are working to amplify this sentiment as wheelchairs are essentially the key to independence for those effected by disability, and policies of the travel industry could perhaps be doing more to appreciate this.