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1 1.1 Introduction The goal of enabling aging travelers and persons with disabilities to travel independently in airports presents complex navigational challenges in complex spaces that are not easily met using ordinary wayfinding approaches. Additional efforts are needed to help these passengers travel independently and with dignity in airport environments. In order to meet these challenges, the goal of this research is to âcreate a difference that creates changeâ by applying a holistic approach that helps deliver exceptional results. By combining the physical space with information space, the tools and research in this guidebook are intended to help airports implement a comprehensive wayfinding system that provides customers with diverse abilities the information they needâhow and when they need itâto enhance their wayfinding experience throughout each journey segment. The primary audiences for this report are airports, airlines, the TSA, planning/design consul- tants, and others who either directly control various components of the passenger flow process or are directly involved in its design. It is important for each of these groups to understand, as demonstrated by the following facts, that the needs of aging travelers and persons with disabili- ties are not being adequately addressed. The U.S. DOT has also issued an Annual Report on Disability-Related Air Travel Complaints since 2005. This report to the United States Congress summarizes data from U.S. and foreign carriers on the written disability-related complaints they receive annually. The complaints are categorized by type of disability and type of complaint, with the resulting matrices published online for each carrier as well as for domestic carriers, foreign carriers, and all carriers. From C h a p t e r 1 Introduction American Disability-Related Passenger Complaints Up by 55 Percent in June 2014 As reported by George Sensalis from Reduced Mobility Rights (27 August 2014), the U.S. DOTâs Air Travel Consumer Report showed a 55 percent increase in disability-related complaints in June 2014 (U.S. DOT 2014). This report, published monthly, tabulates complaints by passengers with disabilities filed directly with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. DOT.
2 enhancing airport Wayfinding for aging travelers and persons with Disabilities 2004 to 2014, disability-related complaints for all carriers more than doubled, from 11,518 to 27,556 (U.S. DOT August 2015). While disability-related complaints to airlines have generally risen year on year, the pat- tern in types of complaints has been quite regular. Most notably, âfailure to provide serviceâ to âother/wheelchairâ has each year made up roughly half of the total disability-related complaints. These complaints relate to failure to receive wheelchair assistance in the terminal, i.e., assistance requested to and from the gate, for the most part by aging travelers. The number of wheelchair assists at large U.S. airports (such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Miami International Airport, and Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport) now top 1 million annually, so it is no surprise that airlines and their service companies are failing to keep up with demand. This situation, given the aging population and the increasing size and complexity of airports, is likely to present even more of a challenge in the coming decades. A 2015 market study from the Open Doors Organization (a nationwide survey conducted by Mandala Research, LLC) revealed that travel by individuals with disabilities generates $17.3 bil- lion in annual spending, up from $13.6 billion in 2002 (Open Doors Organization 2015).The 2015 study also reported that among adults with disabilities who traveled by air, 72 percent Over a 10-year period, U.S. DOT Annual Reports to Congress showed a 139% increase in disability-related complaints for all air carriers. Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Annual Report of Disability-Related Air Travel Complaints
Introduction 3 encountered major obstacles with airlines and 65 percent with airports. Together, these findings demonstrate that persons with disabilities spend money traveling despite their needs not being adequately met. These findings, combined with the projected growth in the number of aging trav- elers who may experience varying degrees of cognitive, sensory, and mobility impairments, under- score the importance to airports of implementing practices to accommodate the needs, including the need for wayfinding, of these user groups. It is also worth noting that many of the practices recommended in this guidebook are mandated by the ADA and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Congress has responded to the need to increase access to products and services for people with disabilities by passing legislation in a range of areas, including education, employment, transportation, assistive technology, and electronic and information technology. Some legis- lation guarantees the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, other legislation establishes procurement requirements for specific agencies, and other legislation imposes accessibility requirements on producers of products and providers of services. Some legislation is at the federal level, and some is at the state level. Described below are several relevant federal laws in the United States. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that programs and services that receive federal funding make those programs and services available to individuals with disabilities and provide reasonable accommodations. In 1986, Section 508 was added as an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 requires that electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA Standards (and 2010 amendments) are civil rights legislation that builds on and extends the reach of Section 504. The ADA Standards require that public programs and services be accessible to people with disabilities and that they provide accessible, âeffective communica- tion,â regardless of what medium is used for that communication. In addition, access to digital technology is emerging as a new frontier in the enforcement of civil rights for persons with dis- abilities. The virtual part of communication is a key part of this guidebook along with verbal and visual communication. 1.2 Research Objective The objective of this guidebook is to help airports successfully communicate information to aging travelers and persons with disabilities to help them find their way using the principles of universal design. 1.2.1 What Is Communication? Communication (visual, verbal, and virtual) is the act of conveying intended meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules. However, visual information will not help persons who are blind. Likewise, verbal information is limited in how it can help persons who are deaf. Virtual information, too, is not equally accessible to all. Therefore, a comprehensive wayfinding strategy incorporates all of the different forms of communication in order to effectively share information with all individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. 1.2.2 What Is Wayfinding? As described by the Society for Experiential Graphic Design, wayfinding refers to information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and
4 enhancing airport Wayfinding for aging travelers and persons with Disabilities experience of the space. In an airport environment, wayfinding is a vital system that is just as essential to the effective performance and use of the building as any other building system, such as structural and electrical systems. Without an electrical system, there are no lights for people to see where they are going. Similarly, without a well-planned wayfinding system, customers will struggle to find their way and to use the building as intended. This is a key concept in creating an airportâs wayfinding philosophy and strategy. 1.2.3 What Is Universal Design? The principles of universal design guide the design of products and environments to make them usable by all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or spe- cialized design. While all principles may not be relevant to all designs, any airport, planner, or designer can apply the principles of universal design to any project. 1.3 Purpose of the Guidelines ACRP Report 52: Wayfinding and Signing Guidelines for Airport Terminals and Landside was developed to help airports understand wayfinding strategy, principles, and logic that are neces- sary in planning, creating, implementing, and maintaining a signage and wayfinding system (Harding et al. 2011). The purpose of ACRP Project 07-13, âEnhancing Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilitiesâ was not to repeat the content in ACRP Report 52, but to extract and distill relevant information as required to create an easy-to-follow guide that sup- ports the recommendations resulting from the ACRP Project 07-13 research. For information and details associated with the specific aspects of airport wayfinding that are not addressed in this guidebook, please reference ACRP Report 52. While the title of this guidebook includes the phrase âEnhancing Airport Wayfinding,â the content also includes recommendations, requirements, and best practices that are not strictly wayfinding per se. However, in order to achieve the overall objective of helping aging travelers and persons with disabilities travel independently, an airport has to consider more than just helping these customers know where to go. Factors like having a place to sit become just as important as knowing where one is sitting. In other words, if an airport doesnât have a compre- hensive list of considerations, these customers will encounter issues that affect their ability to travel independently regardless of their wayfinding abilities. Therefore, this guidebook is about more than just wayfinding; it is about a customer experience that promotes independent travel for aging travelers and persons with disabilities. A fuller discussion of the broader needs of aging travelers and persons with disabilities and the innovative ways that airports can meet them are being addressed in ACRP Project 01-31, âInnovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities.â Readers should also refer to ACRP Synthesis 51: Impacts of Aging Travelers on Airports (Mein, Kirchhoff, and Fangen 2014). 1.4 Organization of the Guidebook Chapter 2 addresses the first and most important aspect of this guidebook, understanding who aging travelers and passengers with disabilities are and what their needs are. Creating an airport environment that meets the needs of these user groups by applying the principles of universal design not only helps these travelers, but also has the added benefit of enhancing the travel experience for all customers. Throughout the guidebook, there will be content that seems
Introduction 5 like it applies to any customer; that is exactly the point and a key concept behind the principles of universal design that are introduced in Chapter 2. The word âcustomers,â as used in the context of this guidebook, is representative of the target audienceâaging travelers and persons with disabilities. Chapter 3 focuses on wayfinding strategies and what types of information are communicated using the three âVsâ of communicationâvisual, verbal, and virtual. For example, visual way- finding information is the most basic navigational tool, encompassing all static signage. While visual information is the workhorse of the wayfinding world, it is important to understand the factors that need to be considered for aging travelers and persons with disabilities. Verbal information is another key piece of the puzzle. For older adults and passengers with disabilities who need further instruction on how to reach their destination, offering verbal assis- tance is very important, so a consideration of whom verbal information is shared with, along with how and where it is communicated, is part of Chapter 3. When the term âvirtualâ is used in wayfinding, it is referring to dynamic, non-static naviga- tional tools. In essence, digital tools can range from computers used at home for pre-trip plan- ning, to out-of-house tools such as mobile devices and airport-provided digital information that enhance the travel experience. Information can also be communicated tactilely; therefore Chapter 3 also discusses types of tactile information that can aid those with vision loss to find their way independently. Section 3.6 in Chapter 3 will help airports conduct a Wayfinding and Services Gap Analysis. When information is presented in only one mode, the result will create wayfinding gaps. Cus- tomers with or without disabilities process information differently, and where visual signage might be sufficient for one passenger, verbal wayfinding can fill in the gaps for another. Simi- larly, where virtual information isnât enough for a traveler, architectural cues can guide them in the right direction. This section provides approaches for analyzing wayfinding problems. The Wayfinding and Services Gap Analysis will result in a recommended plan of action for improving an airportâs wayfinding system to meet the needs of aging travelers and persons with disabilities. Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 will equip airports with the method to create a difference that creates a change, and, where appropriate, explain why it is important to create a difference that creates a change. Many of the issues and challenges that aging travelers and persons with disabilities face in airports begin in the airportâs planning stage. Chapter 4 focuses on the factors that should be included as part of an airportâs planning process. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are organized based on the customerâs experience at the airport using the three basic types of customers: departing, arriving, and connecting. Within each of these chapters, a checklist for each specific journey seg- ment is outlined to emphasize the opportunities a small, medium, or large airport can employ to enhance the wayfinding experience. Research shows that there is no single airport that is a best practice model. However, there are some airports that do a better job than others. Hence, the guidebookâs approach uses the best ideas and examples around the framework of the Way- finding Accessibility Audit Checklist and is supported graphically with virtual airport models of various journey segments (see Appendix C). Technology plays an ever-increasing role in every aspect of life. Chapter 8 will describe some of the technologies encountered in the airport wayfinding travel experience, best practices for implementation, and how the principles of universal design can be incorporated to expand or enhance the capabilities of technology to be inclusive of as many people as possible regardless of limitations or disabilities.
6 enhancing airport Wayfinding for aging travelers and persons with Disabilities 1.5 Implementation Considerations While wayfinding analyses and accessibility audits do exist, up to this time there has not been a consolidated audit that truly merges issues associated with both aging and disabilities into an all-inclusive assessment. Therefore, the ACRP Project 07-13 research has focused on creating a Wayfinding Accessibility Audit Checklist (provided in Appendix A) that provides airports with a step-by-step process by which to evaluate their airport from a point of view that will benefit aging travelers and persons with disabilities. In order to properly apply the recommendations and requirements in the Wayfinding Acces- sibility Audit Checklist, it is critical to read Chapter 2 to understand the user needs of the dif- ferent types of passengers with disabilities and aging travelers, followed by Chapter 3, which focuses on the kind of information needed to communicate with the various passenger types. Subsequently, referencing the Wayfinding Accessibility Audit Checklist in Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 will equip the reader to create a difference that creates a change.