Moving sidewalks, shuttle vehicles, kiosks and high contrast captioning communication make all our airport experiences easier, especially people with disabilities.
July 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
PHL Access and Accessible Programs Manager Saron McKee states, “It was legal to discriminate against people with disabilities before the ADA. The ADA ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to all aspects of everyday life and society, and emphasized that covered entities have to make policies, procedures, services, and the environment accessible to people with disabilities of all types.”
Airports across the country, including PHL, strive to be as inclusive as possible. Over the years PHL has taken steps towards enhancing accessibility for people with disabilities. In 2019 PHL partnered with Aira, a smartphone app that enables passengers to connect with professional agents who act as visual interpreters, using the traveler’s phone camera to share views of their surroundings and interact with agents. This app allows people with visual impairments to navigate PHL in ways they could not before.
PHL also has Service Animal Relief Areas (SARA) in all seven terminals, including a permanent relief area located in terminal D with a built-in basin with plumbing for easy wash downs by the owner, a faux fire hydrant, doggie waste bags, waste receptacle, hand washing station, and exterior waiting bench with device charging receptacles. These easily accessible relief areas are designated for traveling passengers on flights accompanied by a trained service animal. PHL plans on adding additional SARA’s in Terminals A-West, B and C by 2022.
Later this year PHL will roll out its Hidden Disabilities Program which utilizes a sunflower lanyard to raise awareness about hidden disabilities such as Autism, memory loss, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions that may not be immediately obvious to other people.
The program is based on the sunflower scheme developed in the UK. There, the lanyard is used in airports, rail stations, and retailers to signal that an individual may have a hidden disability and may need a little extra support. PHL will soon provide a lanyard to anyone who requests one, passengers are not required to disclose disability-related information to participate.
PHL Stakeholders often collaborate and follow Title III of the ADA and the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA). Title III directs businesses to make appropriate modifications to better serve people with disabilities. It also requires that they take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.
Marketplace PHL Marekting and Customer Service Manager Megan O’Connell stated, “MarketPlace PHL works closely with the City of Philadelphia Division of Aviation to ensure all food and shops are fully aware of ADA guidelines. To ensure compliance, MarketPlace sends reminders to merchants regarding the importance of ADA requirements and also conducts unannounced walkthroughs of the merchants’ premises to ensure compliance.”
PHL continues to improve access and accommodations for employees and passengers. “As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the ADA, I’m proud of the accomplishments by and for people with disabilities that have been made possible by the ADA,” said McKee. “At PHL, we continually improve and are striving to go beyond the requirements of the law to create new programs and amenities that welcome people with disabilities and allow everyone to fully participate.”