Heathrow Airport has announced that it will introduce a package of permanent accessibility improvements for passengers with reduced mobility following the arrival of 2,100 Paralympic athletes and officials for the largest ever Paralympic Games.
The airport has partnered with mobility charity Whizz-Kid to meet the complex operational challenge of accommodating a high number of passengers with reduced mobility and visual impairments, many of which will be wheelchair users.
The charity has offered first-hand, expert guidance on how to further improve the airport’s accessibility and audited Heathrow’s terminal facilities, suggesting a number of improvements including:
• Increasing the number of specialist lifts, known as ambilifts, that are used to help passengers with reduced mobility embark and disembark aircraft – Heathrow now has 12 ambilifts, more than any other airport in Europe
• Extra training for staff and volunteers on the correct way to handle specialist wheelchairs and mobility equipment
• Obtaining 13 scissor lifts and installing 100 new ramps to help load and unload wheelchairs
• Upgrading and increasing its fleet of buggies for transporting passengers with reduced mobility through the airport to a total of 60 vehicles
• Installing four new lifts to help return wheelchairs to the aircraft door
• Increasing the number of lightweight aisle chairs and self-propelled wheelchairs to 38 and 20 respectively
• An onsite wheelchair repair service
• Installing new accessible toilets
The new facilities and additional staff training, which are part of BAA’s £20million investment in the London 2012 Games, will continue to benefit all passengers with reduced mobility long after the last medal has been awarded.
BAA chief executive, Colin Matthews, said, “Given the increased challenges of the Paralympic Games, we wanted to make sure that we were prepared to meet the needs of the greater than usual number of passengers with reduced mobility visiting Heathrow. Whizz-Kidz has given us great advice and the results will benefit both Paralympians and our regular passengers alike.”
Whizz-Kidz CEO Ruth Owen OBE, added, “BAA Heathrow has been working closely with Whizz-Kidz and our young Kidz Board to prepare the Paralympics 2012 athletes for a warm – and accessible – welcome to London.
"Whizz-Kidz is committed to working with BAA to ensure that we continue to improve the airport's accessibility and the legacy that the Paralympics will leave Heathrow and its many disabled customers. We are proud to be BAA Heathrow's chosen charity in the year that the Paralympics come to London – it's a wonderful opportunity for the charity and its young people."
The London 2012 Paralympics will take place on 29 August-9 September 2012.