Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
22 Many communications tools and technologies are used by airports to improve emergency messaging for people with DAFN. Chapter 3 of this guide discussed how DAFN advisory groups could work to identify gaps where such tools and technologies do not meet the needs of the whole community. The next step is to develop an emergency communications strategy by identifying accessibility options that address these identified gaps (see Figure 7). Each airport will need to evaluate and choose the correct mix of options to address its specific gaps, depending on the resources available for implementation. Technology of all types is susceptible to its dependence on critical infrastructure over which airports may or may not have control, including electricity, audio and video services, and Internet and network connectivity. A key consideration when developing an accessible communications strategy is to identify backup solutions for disseminating critical and potentially lifesaving information when the airport facility is without these services. Figure 8 lists core, enhanced, and emerging techniques discussed in this chapter. All airports should incorporate several core techniques as part of an accessible emergency communica- tions strategy. Implementing these core techniques involves leveraging existing technologies and services to be more inclusive of members of the DAFN community. Several of these techniques can be implemented at low or no cost using existing airport resources. To build an emergency communications strategy that includes people with DAFN, airports first should verify that they currently are providing core strategies. If not, airports should implement them as a top priority. After core strategies have been applied, airports should review enhanced techniques to identify those that fill identified gaps in accommodations to people with DAFN. Enhanced techniques are identified best practices that are currently being successfully applied in airports across the world. Once core and enhanced techniques are in use, airports can explore implementing emerging techniques. Emerging techniques are new and innovative solutions that are becoming more common. A summary of all techniques and benefits, barriers to implementation, resource require- ments, and airports that currently implement the strategy is included in Appendix D. The techniques listed in Figure 8 are described in the next section of this guidebook. Core Techniques DAFN Advisory Group Airports that are not currently engaging with a DAFN advisory group should develop one and begin using its expertise to inform emergency management planning, training, and exercise. The disability community employs the motto âNothing about us without usâ to advocate that C H A P T E R 4 Developing Emergency Communications Strategies That Include People with DAFN
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 23 planning to meet the needs of people with disabilities should be developed in concert and col- laboration with the people who will be affected by the approaches. One of the most useful ways an airport can better understand the needs of these individuals is to establish a DAFN advisory group, composed of airport employees with DAFN who can represent a variety of disabilities and/or functional needs, airport emergency managers, ADA coordinators, and members of local non-profit organizations that represent people with DAFN. The DAFN advisory group can assist in determining appropriate safety measures at the airport. Airports of any size can assemble a DAFN advisory group. These individuals will know the facilities intimately and are invaluable resources to the emergency planning process. Visual Paging Systems A visual paging system supports individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by displaying transcriptions of audio pages on monitors. It is more effective to display the entire message on monitors than it is to have the message scroll across the bottom of weather screens and/or flight information displays. Many airports position dedicated screens used only for visual paging near Develop DAFN Emergency Communications Strategies STEP 2 Identify DAFN Emergency Communication Needs STEP 1 Incorporate Strategies into Emergency Preparedness Program STEP 3 â¢ Apply Core Techniques â¢ Identify Enhancements to Fill Gaps â¢ Implement Strategies â¢ Inventory DAFN Services â¢ Conduct Self-Assessment â¢ Identify Gaps â¢ Include in Emergency Plans â¢ Deliver Accessibility Training â¢ Integrate DAFN into Emergency Exercises Figure 7. Step 2: Evaluate solutions to fill gaps identified during the needs assessment process. Figure 8. Core, enhanced, and emerging techniques for accessible emergency communications.
24 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs flight information displays and in other locations throughout the airport. The messages can also be logged in a âpaging historyâ screen located at each airport information booth and posted on the airportâs public website. A key aspect of ensuring that the visual paging system is effective for emergency com- munications is to ensure that it is linked to and controlled by a central command point with the ability and authority to disseminate emergency messages in a timely fashion. The central command point should determine the timing of messaging, the location or locations where it will be displayed, and the amount of time the message will remain on the monitors. Using pre-scripted emergency messages to expedite the dissemination process as quickly as possible has been noted as a successful best practice. Employee Accessibility Training Program Employees receive training on ADA requirements, often through videos and/or written materials that demonstrate how to accommodate requests for assistance, such as requests for wheelchair services. This training aims to help employees better understand the needs of people with DAFN. Two additions to this training can enhance staff capabilities for assisting people with DAFN during an emergency. First, a training module could be added that explains what modes of emergency communication will be implemented during an emergency and what populations may need additional assistance in receiving and understanding them. Second, disability equality training (DET) should be delivered to employees and volunteers responsible for customer care. MinneapolisâSt. Paul International Airportâs Travelers with Disabilities Advisory Committee has accomplished many initiatives to make the airportâs emergency communications more accessible. Highlights include beacon technology using Bluetooth iBeacons (which are superior to a global positioning system [GPS] in indoor settings) to communicate location information to smartphone apps and provide voiceover guidance for people with low or no vision; video relay interpreting; induction loop technology to assist individuals who are deaf with cochlear implants or who are hard of hearing; and improved dynamic (digital) signage. Wings for AutismÂ®/Wings for AllÂ® Many airports have acknowledged the need to increase their ability to assist individuals with autism. Wings for AutismÂ®/Wings for AllÂ® is a program that provides airport ârehearsalsâ designed to alleviate the stress experienced in an airport by children with autism and their families. Administered by The Arc, the program also allows airport, airline, TSA, and other personnel to participate in the rehearsal and is a great way to provide additional accessibility training. The program travels to airports all over the United States, and their schedule is updated on the program website: https://www.thearc.org/wingsforautism.
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 25 Focusing on training staff to be sensitive to people with DAFN will help foster an environ- ment of compassion. DET can be developed and/or delivered by airport staff (see Appendix G for sample DET training materials) or provided by an outside organization. The Open Doors Organization, for example, provides DET specifically geared toward airport and airline staff. Inclusive Emergency Preparedness Methods and procedures for communicating emergency information to people with DAFN should be integrated into an airportâs emergency preparedness program. Emergency plans, particularly crisis communications plans and emergency operations plans (EOPs) should incorporate processes for disseminating messages through multiple formats that accommodate people with DAFN. Pre-scripted messages can be translated into foreign languages, and ASL interpretation of such messages can be pre-recorded for rapid deployment. Emergency exercises should test communications procedures and incorporate participants with DAFN together with their equipment and service animals. More information about planning, training, and exercising communication techniques is provided in Chapter 5 of this report. The cruise line Royal Caribbean International uses a comprehensive, inclusive preparedness approach that includes collaboration with an integrated planning committee. This approach creates multiple opportunities for individuals to identify any additional accommodations they might require so that operations can be adjusted to ensure the needs of all passengers are met. The cruise line is continually identifying accessibility approaches by engaging with customers on an ongoing basis. Recent improvements have included creating indoor seated areas for muster drills to accommodate individuals who have mobility challenges, including difficulty standing for longer periods. Mobile Translation Applications International travelers pass through airports every day. The availability of translation services can be limited, and mobile translation applications (apps) can be a simple way to supplement formal interpretation services. Guest services coordinators can install translation apps or book- mark translation websites on tablets or mobile devices as a quick and easy way of ensuring that they can communicate with any guest. Guest services representatives, information booths, and volunteers generally have access to devices with web browsers, and Google Translateâ¢ can be used on any device with network connectivity. Implementation of this technique requires informal training, which can be communicated via email to employees or through printed flyers reminding staff that this simple strategy can offer a quick and easy solution. In an emergency, individuals with LEP may have a difficult time understanding what is happening or reading emergency messages. Usually, the closest airport employee will be the first person they go to for information. Translation apps can provide an efficient way to inform those individuals of the situation and ensure that they take proper precautions. Go-Kits for Information Desks To supplement use of mobile translation apps, airports can equip information desks with additional tools to support people with DAFN. FEMA has outlined a list of accessibility
26 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs resources for Disaster Recovery Centers that can be adapted to airports (FEMA 2015). The following items can be pre-packaged in a âGo-Kitââa box or duffle bag at the information desk that is available for both day-to-day operations and under emergency conditions. â¢ Signage with universal symbols for wayfinding and to provide direction for people with LEP or who are deaf or hard of hearing. A copy of the signage representing evacuation can be retrieved by an information desk representative and held up to notify others. Appendix M includes more information about universal symbols. â¢ A âJust Askâ poster that lists types of assistive technology devices and accommodations that are available in the airport. The poster can be placed on information desks, ticket counters, or gate desks at all times to help build all travelersâ awareness of available assistance. â¢ Materials in braille, large print, and multiple languages, including pre-scripted emergency messages and evacuation and sheltering procedures. â¢ A megaphone to amplify emergency messages when power, Internet, or cell phone reception is unavailable. The megaphone should be used by authorized staff and in accordance with emergency protocols. â¢ Pen and paper or whiteboards and markers are simple and effective tools to write or draw information. In a one-on-one situation, pen and paper can be used to communicate quickly without speech; also, the traveler can take the paper with them for reference after leaving the information desk, ticket counter, or gate desk. Whiteboards or flipcharts can be moved to appropriate locations quickly and can be updated to reflect changing information. A whiteboard can be particularly useful during a power outage or when other communications infrastructure is unavailable. Accessible Wayfinding The importance of getting around at the airport safely and quickly cannot be overstated. Clear, multi-formatted, and dynamic wayfinding information becomes much more important in an emergency. ADA guidelines for wayfinding signage recommend the following: â¢ Positioning signs perpendicular to paths of travel â¢ Using raised and braille characters and pictorial symbols â¢ Using signage with sufficient color contrast and size The most effective readability is achieved by using light-colored characters or symbols on a dark background (U.S. Department of Justice 2007). Figure 9 provides an example of a facility communications-via-signage color-coding scheme. Although wayfinding is most often helpful for day-to-day airport operations, effective wayfinding techniques can be crucial in an emergency. People with DAFN will need to com- prehend available wayfinding resources that communicate emergency information quickly and efficiently. Making this possible includes providing easily understood signage and messaging Source: Airport Sign Standard Manual, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey This airport has a color-coded signing system Follow yellow signs when flying â¢ Ticketing â¢ Gates â¢ Arrivals â¢ Check-in â¢ Restrooms â¢ Escalators â¢ Ground Transportation â¢ Parking â¢ Phones Follow black signs for airport services Follow green signs when leaving the airport Figure 9. Color-coded signing system at JFK (Harding et al. 2017).
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 27 for evacuation paths, safe areas, and exits. Best practice strategies for accessible wayfinding include: â¢ Low-level signage and maps â¢ Color-coded exit pathways and exit doors â¢ Glow-in-the-dark signs and lines on floors showing the evacuation routes â¢ Evacuation and exit signage displayed in accessible formats (e.g., braille, tactile characters, large print, and multiple languages The use of standard and consistent coloring and icons throughout the facility is suggested (see Appendix M). Airport personnel play an important role in helping individuals who may need wayfinding assistance during an emergency. Instilling the mentality that âeveryone is a first responderâ can encourage staff to stay aware of their surroundings and look for those who may appear to need help following emergency instructions. Training activities can help airport employees to better understand how to respectfully offer assistance to people with DAFN (see Appendix G). Enhanced Techniques Airline Mobile Applications Many travelers, especially frequent travelers, now use airline mobile applications through- out their journeys and are accustomed to receiving notifications through them. Using existing airline mobile applications as a method to disseminate emergency communications allows airports an additional means of outreach while keeping operating costs low. Integration of emergency communications into an airlineâs mobile application requires that the airport execute an agreement with the airline to share its emergency notifications through an application- programming interface (API) or other networked solution. Through this arrangement, each airline operating at a specific airport would receive the emergency communication and could distribute it through its proprietary application. Direct-Line Courtesy Phones Many airports locate direct-line telephones strategically throughout their terminals. The direct-line telephones connect directly to airport information booths or customer service repre- sentatives. When a traveler picks up the phone the connection is immediate; moreover, the caller can immediately be located within the airport, and assistance can be dispatched to the exact location. Having each phone identifiable by its location is a crucial feature of the system because a person using the phone to report an emergency may not be able to identify his/her location. If the phones are tied to specific locations, airport staff can relay the correct location of the caller to first responders. People accepting calls from direct-line telephones should be knowledge- able about the layout of the facility, emergency procedures, and accessibility services offered so they are prepared to give accurate emergency information during an incident. To improve accessibility to all users, these phones should be hearing aid compatible and volume controlled to allow amplification. People accepting the calls should be able and prepared to connect callers with LEP to appropriate translation services. Volunteer Customer Assistance Program In addition to providing airport, airline, and tourism information, traveler assistance pro- gram volunteers can be trained to provide accessibility services during emergencies. Because
28 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs such volunteers are placed throughout the facility, they are well positioned to provide help to individuals who may need assistance in understanding emergency communications. Some volunteers may have foreign language proficiency or be able to provide ASL interpreting services, and those volunteers can be identified with a sticker or button to inform travelers of their skills. Volunteers can also be encouraged to identify senior passengers or people with DAFN during an emergency and offer to help them. Most volunteers will be carrying cell phones, which can be used to easily translate or type messages. Keeping a small notepad or loose paper and pens handy also can help volunteers to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Foreign Language Translation Services Communicating with people with LEP is a constant challenge for airports where inter- national travelers pass through on a daily basis. Recorded public announcements often include translations that correspond to the demographics of airport personnel and the surrounding service areas, and written information for wayfinding often can be provided in several languages. Many airports employ staff who speak two or more languages and who can pro- vide interpretation services when possible. This resource can be leveraged in emergencies to provide assistance for evacuations and ongoing incident information. Some airports also may provide a phone or video-interpretation service at the airport information desks or other centralized locations that allow public access to phones and/or computers. These services are used to connect a traveler with a bilingual or multilingual indi- vidual who will act as an interpreter. These services also may be available on a mobile platform. During an emergency, pre-recorded translation messages can be disseminated easily through the PA system. Efficient use of this technique requires proficient translators and audio and/or video production capabilities. Reducing Barriers to Access A simple improvement to transmitting emergency communications to people with DAFN is to reduce, to the extent possible, some of the impediments to viewing, hearing, or com- prehending the messages. Strategies to reduce access barriers include the following: â¢ Monitors can be placed at eye level, allowing people using wheelchairs to see this informa- tion at a better viewing angle and allowing people with low vision to read the screen at very close range. Ensuring proper color contrast for text improves clarity for all passengers and is especially important for passengers with low vision or color blindness. â¢ Clear visual information also is crucial for people who cannot hear spoken announcements. Incorporating universal design features gives everyone the opportunity to navigate a terminal independently when they might otherwise require assistance. MinneapolisâSt. Paul International Airport (MSP) is home to the Travelers Assis- tance Program, sponsored by the non-profit MSP Airport Foundation group. This program uses more than 400 volunteers for a variety of projects throughout the airport, including the MSP Animal Ambassadors (registered therapy canine teams), MSP Navigators (who provide customer assistance in areas outside of security), and Service Specialists (who are located in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2).
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 29 â¢ Alarms that notify occupants of an emergency using both visual and audible formats help convey the urgency of the situation in multiple ways. â¢ Accessible exit signs, provided in a clear and simple format (that includes tactile and braille components) helps ensure that wayfinding information can lead people to suitable exits. Website Accessibility Information Websites offer one of the most important methods an airport can use to convey information. For the benefit of all passengers, information about the accessible features of the airportâ including maps and instructions, when possibleâshould be made available on airport websites. Websites should be made accessible to people with disabilities through the application of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (updates of which went into effect on January 18, 2018), in coordination with the voluntary WCAG 2.0 standards of the World Wide Web Con- sortium (W3C) and the ICT Standards of the European Commission. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a checklist to evaluate a websiteâs compliance with Sec- tion 508 standards. The checklist can be found online at https://www.hhs.gov/web/section-508/ making-files-accessible/checklist/html/index.html. Manchester Airport (MAG) Special Assistance Webpage MAG has created a webpage dedicated to providing information about the airportâs special assistance services and technologies. The webpage includes descriptions and instructions for requesting assistance, including transportation (e.g., parking, accessible bus services), wheelchairs, security, location of changing places (equipped with hoist system and mobile hydraulic height adjustable changing bench), assistance dogs, and âhidden disabilitiesâ lanyards. The airport also has worked in collaboration with DisabledGo to create a detailed guide for each area of the airport to describe the accessibility features and assist people with DAFN on how to navigate the facilities. This type of webpage provides valuable information that reduce barriers to access during day-to-day operations, and can also feature information on how emergency information will be communicated in accessible formats for people with DAFN. Airport websites also can be used to connect travelers to emergency alert âOpt-Inâ programs. Many airlines send digital âKnow Before You Goâ documents to their travelers in the days before they travel using links to the facilityâs website. Some airlines also call travelers ahead of time to ask if assistance will be needed for their trip. Along with standard discussions of luggage restrictions, traveling with animals, liquids, flammables, and so forth, these messages can include embedded links that enable travelers to opt in to receive the airportâs emergency messages via text or email alerts. If there is an airport incident, travelers who have opted in will be given immediate instructions with precise actions to execute. Self-Identification Programs If someone chooses to self-identify as a person with a DAFN, airports should be prepared to provide accommodations to that individual during an emergency. In practice, this preparation may involve pre-arranged accommodations, such as reserved wheelchair access. Many airports also provide lanyards, stickers, or brightly colored bracelets to individuals who self-identify.
30 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs These items function as signals, helping airport employees quickly recognize individuals who have self-identified as people with DAFN and who may need assistance in case of emergency. Pre-Flight Preparation Programs From fire and security alarms to emergency medical service (EMS) responses to radio or television âemergency warning systemâ tests, many emergency communications systems have relied on loud sounds, sometimes paired with flashing lights, to attract attention. These familiar techniques are useful for many people, but they are not universally effective. An important consideration when communicating with people with autism or sensory processing disorders is they can be easily overwhelmed by loud noises and flashing lights. This may cause them to freeze or become unresponsive to emergency notifications of any type. When designing emergency communications systems, airports must work collaboratively and deliberately with their communities to consider a wide range of needs. Some airports may encourage travelers with sensory disorders to wear headphones to avoid an adverse response to alarms and loud noises. Induction Loops Induction loop technology is an existing technology that has been used successfully in other settings for many years. For people who are deaf with cochlear implants or hard of hearing, induction and/or hearing loops can increase listening comprehension and safety while main- taining independence and privacy. Induction loops send an audio signal to activated telecoils (t-coils) already present in existing hearing aids. Hearing loop technology is widely regarded as the most effective, user-friendly, universal, and cost-effective assistive listening technology. Self-Identification At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the self-identification program instituted by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) allows people with autism to share that information to help airport staff better understand and consider the challenges they face in an airport environment. The self-identification program is the result of input received from families who expressed a fear of flying with their family members with autism. They were concerned that loved ones with autism might become confused in an airport environment, creating outbursts that could result in a negative security response. In actuality, the person may only be trying to communicate or may be reacting to the stress of an unfamiliar environment. Participants in this free program receive autism self-identification stickers from the ticket desks of participating airlines. One sticker is placed on the upper left chest and one sticker is placed on the upper right back, so that the person with autism can be easily identified at a distance by responding airline or law enforce- ment personnel. Airline personnel and law enforcement agents are trained to recognize people wearing these stickers as someone with autism. While this program was not created specifically for emergency situations, having this program in place during emergencies would allow airport personnel and law enforcement to better serve these passengers during an emergency.
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 31 With as many as one in six people experiencing some form of hearing loss, this technology could benefit a great number of individuals. Current research indicates that nine U.S. airports are using loop systems, and several are in the process of proposing or planning to install a system. A loop system can be used to assist individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to receive emergency communications from the PA system. Turning the PA system to the âTâ mode turns off the microphone that ordinarily picks up the surrounding ambient noise. The electro- magnetic field of the loop system picks up the audio message from the PA system and directs the loop signal to the t-coils that are part of the internal mechanism of usersâ hearing aids or cochlear implants. In effect, the loop creates a customized signal that is consistent with the programming of the individualâs hearing aid or implant. Because the loopâs electromagnetic field creates a powerful signal with a larger signal-to-noise ratio, the clarity of the announcement Helping People with DAFN Prepare for Flights Travelers passing through the MontrÃ©alâPierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) can use the Airport Wayfinderâ¢ to make a virtual visit to the airport in advance of travel to know what passenger services are available. This is an Internet-based service that offers virtual tours of airport terminals. It provides information on such topics as departure, arrival, security, customs, immigration procedures, and directions when making connections. Saint John Airport (YSJ), in collaboration with the local chapter of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, invites people to bring their guide dogs to the airport to familiarize them with the environment before they come to the airport to travel. The guided tour begins at the curb and continues through the check-in process right to the aircraft, as well as any other location within the airport terminal that travelers with guide dogs may wish to visit. Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) Induction Loop Technology GRR uses induction loop technology to provide messages to patrons using compatible assistive hearing devices. This technology is available in the public areas of the main terminal Grand Hall and in Concourses A and B. The induction loop technology broadcasts messages from the airportâs PA system directly into the hearing aid, thus greatly reducing interference from background noises and other competing sounds. Messages can be focused to a certain gate or to the entire Grand Hall and two concourses. Although not all hearing aids can receive messages through induction loop technology, the majority of hearing aids now have the telecoils (t-coils) required to receive the messaging, and all cochlear implants are able to receive the messaging. Other airports with loop systems include Kalamazoo/ Battle Creek International Airport (AZO), South Bend Inter national Airport (SBN), HartsfieldâJackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Phoenix Sky Harbor Inter national Airport (PHX), MinneapolisâSt. Paul International Airport (MSP), Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), and Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC).
32 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs also is improved in comparison to what a hearing aid could normally provide. The technology for the type of loop systems used for PA announcements can be placed in the ceiling or below floor coverings. Counter loops also are useful at airport point-of-service counters (e.g., at gates, ticket counters, information desks, and so forth). Counter loops facilitate one-to-one communications with people who are standing at the counter but whose hearing aids or implants will not pick up announcements made using the PA system. Induction loop technology requires highly specialized equipment and knowledge to imple- ment, especially if multiple loops will be used in the same facility. Although off-the-shelf technology exists, it is specific to equipment types and uses, and installation of a system or retro- fitting an existing facility to include loop technology should be undertaken by professionals experienced in designing and installing these systems in an airport setting. Airports that have this technology should incorporate its application into emergency plans, training, and exercises to ensure that the technology is integrated into the airportâs emergency communications strategy. Emerging Techniques Video Remote Interpreting Video remote interpreting (VRI) assists travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing by using devices, such as web cameras or videophones, to provide real-time sign language interpreting services on computer tablets and other devices at information desks and customer service desks. VRI services require equipment (e.g., tablets or computers) with Internet access and webcams. Although most information desks can be equipped to have this capability, on-demand VRI during an emergency may not be as quickly accessible as needed. The timely use of VRI requires both that these resources be available and that travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing know where to locate them. Outreach often is needed to inform passengers of this service. VRI is identified as an auxiliary aid or service under ADA requirements. In fulfillment of ADA guidelines, the VRI must provide real-time, full-motion video and audio over a dedicated high- speed, wide-bandwidth video connection or wireless connection that does not produce lags; choppy, blurry, or grainy images; or irregular pauses. The size of the monitor must allow the face, arms, hands, and fingers of both the interpreter and the user to be displayed. The system must transmit clear, audible voices, and airport staff must be trained to ensure a quick set-up and proper operation of the equipment. As a complement or alternative to VRI, pre-recorded sign language interpretation can be displayed on screens throughout the airport during an emergency. Scripted messages can be pre-recorded by trained and certified ASL interpreters and subsequently played on screens concurrently with recorded audio messages or warnings. This strategy is relatively easy to implement because it simply requires the translation of a message that is already prepared. Preparing the pre-recorded interpretation will require access to a trained and certified ASL interpreter and video production capabilities. The DAFN advisory group may be able to identify a qualified ASL interpreter, and many large airports have access to video production resources or are able to source them from local vendors. Disseminating the message during an emergency requires a priority interrupt system to override the standard signal to the screen. Because it is limited to a pre-defined set of messages, pre-recorded sign language inter- pretation may not meet the communications needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing during a highly fluid situation or one where standard instructions are not appropriate. More- over, like many other communications techniques, the ability to play pre-recorded messages
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 33 depends on access to electrical power and functioning technology, which may be outside the control of the message originator or unavailable during an emergency. Mobile Assistive Technologies Mobile assistive technologies are becoming ubiquitous in daily life, as is evidenced by the increased use of smart speakers and smartphone virtual assistants. Assistive technologies, which perform tasks or services in real time, can be installed on computers and mobile devices to enhance visual, verbal, and virtual communications in ways that support people with DAFN. Smartphone apps are the most common application of assistive technologies and allow for people with DAFN to navigate and communicate in unfamiliar environments, such as airports. These technologies can be used both in daily life and to provide real-time communications for people with DAFN during an emergency. Implementation of assistive technologies generally occurs at the user level; however, airports can provide assistive technology equipment and/or services to travelers, or can distribute information on assistive technologies that may enhance customer satisfaction in the airport. Smartphone apps exist that can support people who are deaf or hard of hearing by using the microphone in the phone to alert the user of distress or even to alert family members or emer- gency services. More comprehensive services also are available that can notify users through digi- tal signage, desktop computer (e.g., PC) alert messaging, audio/visual public announcements, short message service (SMS) alerts, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), automated telephony, smart LED signaling, panic buttons, and so forth. Several software options can provide real-time transcription of conversations in multiple languages. Many visual assistive technologies use text-to-speech capabilities for reading incoming texts or messages. Some smartphones can be modified to improve communication through touch and sound as opposed to visual information. Other tools, such as video-equipped smart glasses, can be used in conjunction with a smartphone app to connect individuals who are blind with trained professional guides. Camera-based smartphone apps also can provide guide services Aira Airport Network Aira is a company that offers subscription-based services that connect people who are blind or visually impaired with trained agents via smartphone apps and/or proprietary smart glasses. Once connected, the agents assist the users (called âExplorersâ) with specific tasks. Agreements executed between participating airports and Aira allow users (including non-subscribers) to access features of the service at no charge while they are in the airport. For example, users connected to the Aira Airport Network may enlist the remote agents to help guide them through the airport, obtain flight information, navigate security, use self-service kiosks, or execute other tasks. Any airport can join the Aira Airport Network. Current members include the Memphis International Airport (MEM), MinneapolisâSt. Paul International Airport (MSP), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), Denver International Airport (DEN), and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
34 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs that connect users to volunteer guides. Some wearable devices can convert visual information into speech, and some devices can translate eye movements into verbal communication. Specific assistive technologies with capabilities to enhance emergency communications for people with DAFN are listed in Appendix E. Geofenced Mobile Alerts Geofencing is the practice of using GPS, radio frequency identification, Wi-Fi, or cellular data of a mobile device to define a geographic virtual boundary. An app or software can be preprogrammed to trigger an action when a mobile device enters or exits the geofenced area. Two primary systems are designed for geofenced mobile alerts and SMS alerts: Push and Opt-In. Push alerts are executed through the national Integrated Public Alert and Warn- ing System (IPAWS), which pushes emergency communications out to every phone that is capable of receiving them within the geofenced area. Opt-In alerting consists of a database of contacts maintained by the airport through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor. Several vendors currently offer Opt-In service, and most allow for self-registration by end users (e.g., passengers). Registrationâeven on a temporary basisâcan be achieved via the opt-in pro- cess used to allow airport users access to the facilityâs Wi-Fi system. Some vendors also offer two-party verification on geofenced emergency alert messaging to ensure message validation and clarity. Push Alerts (IPAWS) Because this technology is an element of the federal IPAWS, individual airports do not have the ability to change the design of this system. The airport must access it through the same portal as every other user, and messages must maintain commonality with other alerts in terms of length and format. Once an airport has received local or state government autho- rization to use the system, no further implementation steps are required except to maintain proficiency in the use of the system. The system has been fully implemented across the United States by FEMA. Because IPAWS is federally funded and operated, there are no specific charges for airports to use IPAWS for emergency communications. It is also a familiar method by which people receive emergency notifications, so most people will be accustomed to it. In relation to emergency communications with people with disabilities and others with access or functional needs (DAFN), geofenced mobile or SMS alerts issued through IPAWS have some significant limitations. The most obvious limitation is that receiving the messages requires the use of mobile phones. People who do not have a mobile phone, whose phones are not capable of receiving these alerts, or whose phones have limited functionality for people with DAFN will be unable to receive emergency messaging through this system. IPAWS also limits the size of messages and prohibits the inclusion of URLs in messages. The current limit is set at 90 characters. These restrictions prevent an airport facility from using IPAWS to direct alert recipients to an incident-specific website or social media page for further information. Unlike some other technologies included in this section, IPAWS does not provide a confirmation method to ensure that the message has been delivered. Some users also have noted that the system makes it easy to disseminate initial messages, but it can be challenging to stop or update the messages. IPAWS also has limited functionality when trying to send emergency communications to people who do not speak English.
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 35 Opt-In Mobile and SMS Alerts To use Opt-In geofenced mobile and SMS alerts, an airport must contract with a SaaS vendor that can provide a platform from which the alerts can be issued. The airport must work collaboratively with the vendor to optimize the system for their needs. This type of system also can be integrated into the daily operations of the airport and used for communication with staff, assisting with filling shifts, sending out urgent alerts to staff that passengers do not need (e.g., alerts about a ground stop due to lightning), and replacing traditional phone trees or fan-out lists. Many SaaS vendors also include the ability to perform status checks on employees after an incident that affects the area but not the airport directly. The majority of SaaS vendors that provide Opt-In alert services also have a mechanism for self-registration that can empower employees to maintain their own information and select how they want to be contacted by this system. This flexibility could also allow passengers to register on a temporary (for transient passengers) or permanent (for regular passengers) basis. Implementation of this technology would require an airport to establish a hierarchy of alerts that can be customized to specific groups. Opt-In systems also require that recipients agree to receive the communications. Consequently, effective implementation would require some degree of media and awareness efforts to make sure that the public is aware of the system and how to register for it. Both administrators and agents would need training to be able to send messages. Finally, templates for standard messages would need to be created, maintained, and updated as needed to ensure timely and accurate notifications throughout an incident. Technique Evaluation The options for adding services or techniques may seem overwhelming, but it is likely that many techniques already are in use. Once the DAFN advisory group has identified key gaps that need to be filled, the next step is to identify which potential strategies can fill those gaps to improve airport communication capabilities. ADA coordinators and emergency management staff should start by identifying the strate- gies that address the needs identified by the DAFN advisory group. The process of evaluating solutions will depend on multiple factorsâmainly resources, including time, staff, and funding. It is suggested that ADA coordinators and emergency management staff gain an understanding of the resources availableâand requiredâto implement these solutions. A general range of resource requirements is provided in Appendix D. It is important to note that the resource requirements to implement these strategies may depend on factors that are unique to each airport, including airport size, existing systems and equipment, and existing staffing and staff capabilities. Once the ADA coordinator and emergency management staff have identified realistic potential solutions, they should circulate the proposal to members of the DAFN advisory group for feedback and verification. It also may be useful to provide advisory group members with the strategies detailed in Appendix D so they can see a variety of techniques in addition to the ones identified as promising. Having reached consensus with the DAFN advisory group regarding which strategies to implement, the ADA coordinator and emergency management staff will need to outline an implementation plan. The worksheet shown in Figure 10 can be used to document the process
36 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs steps for implementing new or enhanced strategies for accessible communications. A printable version of this worksheet is provided in Appendix B. Common Challenges to Implementation Limited staff and limited funding are the most commonly cited barriers to implementation of new communications strategies. Nonetheless, many airports express interest in learning more and engaging more successfully to meet the emergency communication needs of people with DAFN. Even with limited resources, conducting the needs assessment and implementing the core strategies presented in this report will provide significant value in better understanding and accommodating the needs of people with DAFN. Most airports assign ADA compliance responsibilities to specific staff, but this role often is assigned in addition to other responsibilities. Among the airports interviewed for this project, ADA responsibilities were assigned to positions in the following departments: â¢ Airside operations and communications â¢ Emergency management â¢ HR â¢ Department of transportation (DOT) compliance and small claims. Many of these individuals conduct ADA compliance in addition to their main job func- tions, and a good portion have responsibilities that cross over to emergency management. As reported by interviewees, the overall focus of these roles is on compliance, complaint resolution, minimization of liability, and avoidance of âbad press.â Understandably, given Strategy Gap Addressed/ Population Served Steps for Implementation Responsible Party Timeline Estimated Cost Funding Source Priority Sample Mobile Translation Applications Lack of translation tools in international terminal Place bookmark to Google TranslateTM on home screen of all volunteer tablets Include use of online translation in Volunteer Orientation presentation Include use of online translation tools in Volunteer Orientation packet Guest Services 2 weeks N/A N/A N/Aâ¢ â¢ â¢ Figure 10. Preparing an implementation plan to address accessibility gaps.
Developing Emergency Communications Strategies that Include People with DAFN 37 their multiple responsibilities and regulatory requirements, these individuals have limited timeâwhich is why a DAFN advisory group can be a cost-effective resource for providing information and implementation support to enhance accessibility within the airport. Many airports interviewed for this study reported that they receive few complaints related to providing services for people with DAFN, and this may inhibit the ability to gain buy-in from administration to make investments in the cause. Most interview respondents expressed institutional or organizational interest in including people with DAFN in DAFN advisory groups for the purposes of drawing on the associated experience and expertise of these popu- lations, but the lack of documented historical incidents where problems and challenges were reported tends to minimize the importance of prioritizing such inclusion when it comes to planning. It is difficult to determine whether the lack of reported complaints provides a true reflection of individualsâ experiences, results from under-reporting, or simply reflects compla- cency about inadequate services. This lack of clarity makes the support of a DAFN advisory group critical in making the case to airport administrations that sufficient attention and invest- ment are needed in this area.