Barrier-free through the air: Accessibility on air journeys

Looking for a seat and getting in line until you can get to your seat, stowing hand luggage and "slipping" yourself into the narrow row of seats, climbing out and in again when going to the toilet: a flight is exhausting. But it is even more strenuous for people who are physically impaired, for people whose hearing or vision is impaired or who are dependent on a wheelchair.

Europe's airlines are not among the global front-runners when it comes to barrier-free flying. Japan is an international role model here, and even in the USA, for example, aircraft must already have a barrier-free toilet. The "Cabin4all" exploratory project, which was financed by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) as part of the "Take Off" programme, brought together those affected and representatives of airlines and industry in order to provide new impetus for European aviation.

"The aim was to investigate which measures were sensible - including the limits set by economic efficiency and technical feasibility," explains Bernhard Rüger, project manager and managing director of the Viennese project development company Netwiss, which implemented "Cabin4All" together with researchers from the Vienna University of Technology and the Joanneum University of Applied Sciences as well as consultants from Rodlauer Consulting.

The study authors ranked possible measures for impaired passengers that were surveyed via online and on-site surveys in a ranking that reflects the benefits for the persons concerned, the number of persons as well as technical and economic feasibility.

Braille marking and app

At the top of the list are relatively easily implemented measures such as guidance systems for the blind with seat and toilet inscriptions in Braille, uniform handling of accompanying persons and staff training to enable them to respond appropriately to the requirements of impaired passengers.

In the first place of the recommendations is a measure that can drastically simplify communication and procedures for both affected persons and airlines: an App. The smartphone can output information as speech for the blind and replace acoustic information for the deaf. "For people with limited mobility, all needs and requirements for the flight can be communicated in advance via the app and thus better coordinated by the airline, says Rüger.

(Source: BMVIT Infothek)

Cabin4All [Take Off]: Barrier-free aircraft cabin