The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the international regulatory body for civil aviation, obliges Member States to take the necessary steps to ensure that airport facilities and services are adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities and that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that persons with disabilities have adequate access to air services.
Regulation of the Council and the European Parliament concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air (COM 2005/0047)
On 9 June, European Ministers of Transport adopted a Regulation setting out the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when they travel by air. The Regulation will supercede national and local rules in many aspects of air travel.
The key principles of the Regulation are as follows:
Responsibilities of Airport Managers under the Regulation
The Regulation will require airport managers to provide a designated points of arrival and departure which have basic information about the airport available in accessible formats intended for people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments. Airport managers will also be required to put in place the necessary arrangements to enable disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility to:
Where a disabled person or person with reduced mobility is assisted by an accompanying person, this person must, if requested, be allowed to provide the necessary assistance in the airport and with embarking and disembarking. The overall responsibility should remain with the designated service provider.
Responsibilities of Airlines under the Regulation
Airlines will be required to:
Under the new Regulation, the obligation not to refuse bookings will apply 12 months from the date of adoption (9 June 2006) and the remainder of the Regulation will apply after two years i.e. in mid 2008.
The Regulation will be implemented in Ireland by means of Statutory Instrument, and this will be done as soon as possible now that the Regulation has been formally adopted by the EU.
In the interim, the Department of Transport will formally notify airlines, airports and other relevant parties of the content and advise them to prepare for implementation. In particular, the Department will advise those airlines and airport authorities who have not already done so to arrange to put in place a programme of disability awareness training for staff as a priority measure.
The European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) is drawing up good practice guidelines and service level agreements to enable airlines and airports to provide a consistent level of service to passengers with disabilities across Europe and this work will also inform policy in this area.
State Airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon
It is Departmental policy that the design and provision of facilities at the State Airports are accessible to people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments.
The importance of delivering a high quality of service to all customers and enhancing the quality of the travel experience for all users has always been recognised at the three State Airports. This is achieved in partnership with the various other service providers at the airports.
The building standards at all the State Airports conform to the accessibility provisions of the Building Regulations 2000 and in building and refurbishment works, the NDA guidance document 'Buildings for Everyone - 2002' is used. Facilities to assist people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments will be incorporated into the design of all future airport projects and the DAA will continue to consult with people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments in relation to reviews of existing facilities as well as the introduction of new facilities.
Management at all three airports liaise with local disability organisations in their area with regard to the provision of accessible services. Dublin Airport has set up a disability users group, embracing representative bodies from various organisations, and meetings commenced in January 2006. Shannon and Cork Airports are in the process of establishing formal structures for consulting with disability user groups.
Passenger traffic through Dublin Airport is forecast to grow to about 30 million by around 2015. New infrastructure capacity and facilities, both airside and landside, will clearly be needed to cater for this growth including further terminal capacity. As part of the aviation action plan approved by Government in May 2005, the DAA will commission the building of a new Terminal Two at Dublin Airport. All new developments will be designed to incorporate the needs of persons with mobility and sensory impairments.
Airport management have recently commissioned and completed a full accessibility audit at Dublin Airport. This took place in the first 3 months of 2006. While generally favourable, the audit identified some shortfalls in the provision of services for passengers with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments and remedial action is being taken.
In 2001, Cork Airport embarked on a major development project to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities to cater for passenger traffic growth projections. The project design team engaged with all stakeholders to optimise the airside and landside planning of this project including the Cork Access Group (CAG), a group comprised of people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments. This group is still involved in the ongoing consultation process on the development programme. Upon completion and opening of the terminal this year, there will be ongoing contact with the CAG and a member of the senior management team in Cork Airport will be designated to lead the process.
Cork Airport management is also currently examining a proposal by the CAG for the training of airport staff to develop awareness to the needs of passengers with mobility and sensory impairments.
At Shannon Airport, the Airport Terminal Manager is responsible for the provision of services and facilities for passengers with mobility and sensory impairments
When planning a major terminal extension in 2000, the project team involved engaged with all stakeholders including disability groups in the region to ensure that the highest levels of accessibility works for people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments were incorporated into the works. On completion of the extension, a programme of improvement works was developed in conjunction with these disability groups and is currently being implemented on a phased basis.
The regional airport companies will also be required to comply with the new EU Regulation. There is already strong emphasis placed on all aspects of quality customer service in the regional airports, particularly in relation to access for customers with mobility and sensory impairments.