Students discuss accommodations for disabled passengers at Hancock Airport

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Renci Mercy Xie, a second-year law student at Syracuse University, believes that true accessibility goes beyond physical disabilities.

Xie, who uses a wheelchair, thinks her needs are being met at Syracuse Hancock International Airport, but she hopes others with different types of disabilities can access resources tailored to their unique needs. While some students with disabilities said the airport sufficiently met their needs, others said the mechanisms in place needed to be improved.

“People with different disabilities will have different accommodation needs,” Xie said.

Mengyao Wang, a senior public relations student at SU who is hearing impaired, said Hancock Airport was short of staff early in the morning. During her frequent early morning flights, Wang said she struggled to find help from the few staff at the airport.

Matthew Szwejbka, marketing and communications specialist at Hancock Airport, said the airport employs two Sorenson Video Relay System checkpoints. The system uses video through a smartphone app to connect people who have difficulty hearing with American Sign Language translators. Checkpoints are located before and after security, he said.

Wang, who travels without her hearing aids for fear of setting off metal detectors, said more sign language speaking staff would be a better resource to help people navigate as the app might not be accessible to people without. smartphones.

From Maythe airport recognizes and offers green lanyards across the Sunflower Lanyard Program for Hidden Disabilities. The organization provides identifiable lanyards to people with disabilities who may not be immediately apparent, depending on its website.

The airport also offers AIRA, an aid for the visually impaired that uses a smartphone app to provide on-demand navigation assistance from a professionally trained person via the phone’s camera. Hancock Airport website also lists airport-specific step-by-step written instructions to help travelers who use screen readers navigate.

When creating the instructions, Szwejbka said he walked through the terminal with a measuring wheel and documented critical distances in all directions of the airport. The instructions, he said, are written in basic text to increase accessibility.

“It may seem a bit counter-intuitive. You say, ‘Well wait a second, if someone is blind or visually impaired, why are they going to your website?’ “said Szwejbka. “But it’s actually hugely beneficial because those who use screen readers will be able to access this very simple text.”

Syracuse University sophomore law student Yohannes Zewale said he uses curb assistance at the airline counter to navigate the airport. Zewale, who is blind, said he had never heard of the AIRA service offered, but said he was happy with his experience with its accessibility services.

Xie, who also uses the sidewalk for air assistance, said airport staff accommodated her need to be pushed to her gate in her wheelchair.

Besides people with physical disabilities like hers, Xie added that Hancock Airport should also provide assistance to people with intellectual disabilities and social difficulties.

Rachel Sanders, a third-year law student at SU who is part of the Disability Law and Policy Programsaid she has autism, depression, ADHD, anxiety and OCD and hopes the airport will provide more resources for people with mental health issues and more signage answering frequently asked questions about the location of facilities and security issues.

Communication is a big part of the challenges Syracuse Hancock Airport currently faces, Szwejbka said. While he’s proud of the amount of accessibility equipment at the airport, getting the word out and making people aware of the resources available to them is key to truly improving their experience, he said. .

“The whole point of this is to improve the customer experience for people of all abilities,” Szwejbka said. “We want everyone who sets foot in our airport to have a fair experience and leave the airport saying, ‘I had a great time there and I know I can count on them to take care of me the next time I pass. ”

DISCLAIMER: Mengyao Wang was previously assistant digital editor for The Daily Orange. It does not influence the editorial content of The DO

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