Heathrow announces access champions

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Disability campaigner Helen Dolphin and equality and inclusion regulator Keith Richards have been named as co-chairs of the Heathrow Access Advisory Group (HAAG).

Accessible travel consultant Geraldine Lundy will be vice-chair of the HAAG, working with the independent group to ensure that accessibility and inclusion is always at the forefront of Heathrow’s agenda.

The members of the HAAG will oversee £30m (US$40m) worth of investment in new equipment, resources and technology such as the cutting-edge Navilens technology that Heathrow is working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to trial. Navilens works by using a system of bespoke markers and a powerful detection algorithm to guide visually impaired passengers through the airport, empowering them to travel independently. The trials are set to begin in early spring.

To further strengthen Heathrow’s customer relation and service team, Sarah Charsley has been appointed to the newly created role of head of assistance service transformation and will be working closely with the HAAG to transform the airport’s assistance offering.

In 2019, Heathrow began trialling a new assistance provider in Terminal 5. This trial is being launched ahead of a full re-tender of the service for implementation at the end of 2020, which aims to help the airport achieve its vision of being rated ‘very good’ in the CAA’s annual airport accessibility ranking by 2022. The airport has also rolled out distinctive ‘sunflower lanyards’ to support passengers with hidden disabilities.

The Heathrow Access Advisory Group’s remit is to act as Heathrow’s critical friend as well as promote accessibility and inclusion in every aspect of the business. Featuring well-known disability advocates, the HAAG has had a prominent role in Heathrow’s new wayfinding concept, the revision and improvement of disability awareness training protocols for security staff, and constant monitoring of service quality output. The HAAG is now focusing on promoting accessibility and universal design in Heathrow’s expansion plan.

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Tara has worked for UKi Media & Events since 2013, initially as a freelancer. She has been a journalist for over a decade and has worked for a range of publications, including Personnel Today, Management Today and The Grocer.

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