Heathrow to plough millions into access solutions after CAA blasting

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Heathrow Airport has announced a multi-million pound investment to improve accessibility for disabled people and those with limited mobility.

In addition to a £23m contract with OmniServ to improve passenger service Heathrow is purchasing specialised signage to identify special assistance areas among other access solutions.

The move comes after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a report earlier this year which rated Heathrow as “poor” for disabled access. Following the report the airport said it would “immediately improve access”.

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The number of passengers requesting special assistance at Heathrow is rising at approximately 8% annually, with over one million requests in 2017 alone – more than any other European airport.

The investments are supported by leading UK charities including the Alzheimer’s Society, the National Autistic Society and Action on Hearing Loss.

The airport is also promoting a new on demand app that is being used by passenger ambassadors and special assistance providers across Heathrow to access trained British Sign Language translators on demand to assist deaf passengers travelling through.

Jonathan Coen, director of customer relations and service at Heathrow, said that the airport needs to do more when it comes to its Special Assistance service.

“We will keep working with our partners to deliver a better experience and the high standards of service our passengers deserve.”

Transport Minister Paul Maynard said: “I am delighted to see for myself how Heathrow has improved the experience for those with disabilities or restricted mobility at their airport and to hear that they are constantly striving to do more.

“It is important to acknowledge not all disabilities are visible, that’s why the Government’s draft Accessibility Action Plan contains proposals to improve access for people with conditions like dementia and autism. Our final plan, which will be published next year, will consider responses to our action plan consultation as well as other ideas, such as what I have seen at Heathrow today.”

In May Gatwick Airport announced that it had purchased a new passenger lifting hoist and that it would be purchasing two new Changing Places facilities and two sensory rooms. 

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