OmniServ partners with SigncodeUK to enhance airport assistance for Deaf and Hard of Hearing passengers

OmniServ, part of ABM Industries and the UK’s leading airline and airport assistance service provider, has partnered with SigncodeUK, an innovative online provider of video translation services for the D/deaf community (Deaf, Deafened and Hard of Hearing), as part of its continued efforts to improve the flying experience for all.

OmniServ and SigncodeUK have created three demonstration videos, which will be unveiled on the OmniServ stand C15 at the British and Irish Airports Expo at London’s Olympia on June 11-12. There will also be a SigncodeUK representative on the stand to explain in detail how they can improve the passenger journey for the D/deaf community and what it will be delivering alongside OmniServ.

SigncodeUK points out that British Sign Language (BSL) users effectively have English as a second language, so they can miss, misunderstand or be unable to access written or spoken English. By using Signcodes, Deaf BSL users understand the signed information and for Deafened and Hard of Hearing people there are subtitles.

The two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which allows OmniServ exclusive rights to use the technology in airports – both landside and airside – and with airlines. It will also be available to help D/deaf travellers in airport retail areas.

OmniServ currently provides assistance for People With Reduced Mobility (PRM) passengers at Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest international passenger airports, as well as at Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Stansted. Every year, it helps nearly two million PRM passengers.

Samantha Saunders, Head of Innovation & Regulatory Compliance at OmniServ, says: “This is a real game changer and a win-win for all sides. From the commercial point-of-view, it means airports, airlines and travel retailers can now communicate more easily and effectively with D/deaf passengers. We will be able to create safety briefings for D/deaf passengers to play on airlines, security advisories so they know what to expect in airports, marketing materials for airport retailers and food and beverage providers. For D/deaf passengers, it will reduce frustration, help them get around airports more easily, allow them full access to a range of retail opportunities, and make sure they are fully informed of all the important safety issues that go along with flying.”

“The partnership with SigncodeUK allows us to communicate with a section of the community which rarely uses our passenger support services but which can benefit enormously from them,” adds Saunders. “D/deaf passengers just use a different language. This technology means we can communicate with them in their own language.”

“SigncodeUK cares passionately about equality for the Deaf community and believe independent access to information, products and services should be available to all,” said Jeff Earl, Sales Director, SigncodeUK. “We are delighted to be working in partnership with OmniServ to deliver our dream and it is fantastic to work alongside a company that shares our values and ethos.”

According to Civil Aviation Authority statistics, UK air travel grew 19% between 2010 – 2017. During the same period of time, the numbers of passengers requiring assistance has grown an incredible 47%.

Many of these passengers have visible disabilities; however, OmniServ is aware that there are many people whose disabilities are not readily apparent who might appreciate help. It is actively working with a range of charities to extend its assistance to cover all sorts of ‘Hidden Disabilities’, including autism, impaired vision, hearing problems, and medical conditions such as Meniere’s Syndrome or colostomies.

“Our focus is on comfort and dignity as disabled passengers travel through the airports we serve,” says Antony Marke, Group Managing Director at OmniServ. “Our fundamental belief is that every customer, regardless of their assistance needs, has the same right to enjoy air travel as every other passenger. The partnership with SigncodeUK will help us deliver that promise to a section of the travelling public which has until now been very difficult to reach. I’m delighted that we will now be able to communicate with them in their own language and ensure they enjoy a smooth transit through the airport and a stress-free flight.”