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1 Access to relevant, precise, and timely information is crucial for a pleasant experience in air travel. Travelers with cognitive and sensory disabilities, aging travelers, and travelers with limited English proficiency need alternative approaches to those provided for general travelers for accessing and communicating air travel information. Many airports and airlines are leading the way in developing new and creative services to provide information and thus enhance passenger access and mobility. Through a synthesis of existing literature on the U.S. air travel industry, and semi- structured interviews with representatives from 15 airports, 5 airlines, and 6 community groups in the United States, this report (1) documents current airport services, programs, and communication tools to ensure passenger access and mobility; (2) identifies trends and challenges in enhancing access and mobility for travelers with cognitive and sensory disabilities, aging travelers, and travelers with limited English proficiency; and (3) suggests further research for future air travel services and communication strategies. Key findings of the report are summarized below: â¢ Airportsâ current efforts to improve passenger access and mobility follow three key trends: commitment to seamless customer experience, developing a sense of place at airports, and improving efficiency and personalized service through the use of tech- nology such as biometrics, robotics, and artificial intelligence. â¢ Services and options are available at airports to communicate with travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing. These services or communication tools include traditional and dynamic digital signage, digital interactive directories, brochures, visual paging, hearing loops, TDD/TTY, video communication tools (i.e., video relay service, video phones), American Sign Language interpreting service or app, and smart color-coded LED lights. â¢ To serve passengers who are blind or have low vision, many airports have adopted a free service allowing passengers to use smart glasses or a mobile phone app to connect with a sighted professional agent, who shares the passengerâs view of the surrounding area and provides real-time navigation instructions and directions. Assistance from skycaps, airlines, and airports is also available upon request. â¢ To prepare passengers with cognitive disability, especially individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families for air travel, airlines and airports have developed several programs, including Wings for AutismÂ®, Social Storiesâ¢, and social- story-based mobile apps, to familiarize such individuals with the airport environment. â¢ Services to passengers with other cognitive disabilities or aging passengers are largely dependent on crew members, gate agents, skycaps, wheelchair service agents, airport customer service agents, and volunteers. â¢ Multilingual crew members and staff are key to assisting passengers with limited English proficiency. Many airports subscribe to Language Line services that provide S U M M A R Y Communication Strategies for Airport Passenger Access and Mobility
2 Communication Strategies for Airport Passenger Access and Mobility real-time interpretation in dozens of languages. New technologies in automated kiosks and biometric programs should also reduce the needs for verbal communication. â¢ Outside of the airport setting, airlines and airports depend heavily on their websites to communicate travel-related information and availability of accessibility services. â¢ Outreach to and collaboration with community organizations are crucial for airports to inform the community about services available at the airport, to provide educational information to community members, and to seek advice from people with disabilities regarding how to improve service. â¢ Interviewees indicate that keys to success consist of (1) including accessibility in the customer service mission, (2) including accessibility in all future planning, (3) having an internal champion to ensure buy-in from all stakeholders and partners, (4) listening to customers, (5) looking for innovation, and (6) creating a culture of empathy. â¢ Identified future directions for airports, and for airlines as stakeholders seeking to improve passenger access and mobility, include (1) meeting the increasing needs for wheelchair services, (2) establishing an evaluation mechanism to systematically monitor and evaluate airport services and programs, (3) expanding accessibility services in the air, (4) establishing an internal mechanism for information dissemination to ensure regular and consistent communication with travelers, and (5) keeping a balance between technological innovation and the human touch to ensure personalized service for passengers with different needs. Future research would include development of baseline and benchmark data to monitor and evaluate efficacy of each tool to provide evidence of how well these services and communication tools maximize airportsâ returns on investment.