Universal Design for Airports

Navigating around an airport can be overwhelming for passengers in general, but it can be especially challenging for the elderly and people with disabilities. According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, one in five Canadians aged 15 years and over have one or more disabilities that limit them in their daily activities which makes an inclusive airport experience fundamental.

Nobody wants to be different, and everyone wants some independence. Because of that, Universal Design is something that has been getting attention over the years.

But what is Universal Design? It is the concept of products, services and environments to be designed in order to be accessible to all people. Some airports worldwide, such as Japan Haneda, have been using this concept for a while.  Tokyo International Air Terminals are known for the amount of futuristic technology they use, such as robotics to make the passenger experience better, taking the concept of universal design to a next level. But for many airports the cost makes that whole futuristic approach unachievable. Fortunately, there are also many doable options that make a difference like high-visibility signage and app-enabled guidance to make the environment more user-friendly.

In Canada, a number of airports already take Universal Design into consideration. An example is Vancouver International Airport with tactile maps to help a visually impaired passenger with wayfinding, it also has blinds that are automatically adjusted according to the light levels and speakers that are also automatically adjusted to sound levels. Also, Ottawa International Airport has textured flooring and patterns that help with wayfinding. Edmonton International Airport with their contrast of graduated floor tiles help visually impaired passengers to better judge distances around the terminal.

There are 7 principles to be followed for a successful Universal Design:

1.  Equitable Use – A useful and marketable design to people with diverse abilities

2.  Flexibility in Use – Accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities

3.  Simple and Intuitive Use – Simple to understand regardless of user’s knowledge, skills, languages and concentration level

4.  Perceptible Information – Communicates necessary information effectively to the user

5.  Tolerance for Error – minimize hazards and adverse consequences of accidental actions

6.  Low Physical Effort – Can be used comfortably with a minimum of fatigue

7.  Size and Space for Approach and Use – appropriate size and space for an individual regardless of their body size, posture or mobility.

If you want to learn more about Universal Design and how to adapt to the concept, feel free to email me at paula.moreira@avconww.com.

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