MIAMI – On July 8, IATA has created the Mobility Action Group whose aim is to scrutinize and bring improvements to mobility aids handling, wheelchairs included, vital to passengers with mobility impairments.

Issues linked to secure handling and transportation of mobility aids, an aspect of utmost importance considering the growing number of disabled travelers, will be tackled by the Action Group.

The goal is to give advice and recommendations to air carriers and operators concerned with the handling of mobility aids to establish and apply proper standards and procedures.

Chart: IATA

Comments from IATA Director General

Willie Walsh, IATA Director General, pointed out that every “year thousands of wheelchairs are safely transported by air.” However, he also added that damage and loss are still an issue with “devastating effects to the passenger” since a mobility aid is not only a piece of equipment but “an extension of their body.”

Willie Walsh went on by adding, “We acknowledge that we are not where we want to be on this as an industry. This is why we want to do something about it on a global level, not through setting up a talking shop, but by bringing the key groups together to take practical action.”

Chart: IATA

Open Door Organization

The Mobility Action Group works shall not be limited to airlines but will address all the stakeholders concerned by these issues including accessibility organizations representing travelers with disabilities, ground handling providers, airports, and, for the first time, non-IATA members such as mobility aid manufacturers will be joining the working group

Eric Lipp, founder and Executive Director of the Open Doors Organization (ODO), positively commented on the initiative y stating, “This is the beginning of a new day where the accessibility community has a seat at the table. The challenge of transporting assistive devices faces airlines across the globe and having IATA create this action group shows how committed the industry is to solve one of the largest accessibility topics.”

Chart: IATA

Passengers with Dissabilities

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than a billion people are affected by disabilities, a number set to grow, owing to the worldwide aging of populations, which will increase the number of this customer segment for airlines and airports.

Notwithstanding COVID-related difficulties, IATA and the air transport industry have continued to prioritize work on accessible air travel by developing new guidance so to meet contingencies created by new health and safety measures and in particular on guidance for face mask policies regarding disabled travelers.

Chart: IATA

To conclude, Willie Walsh said, “As airlines are just one link in the chain in handling mobility aids, it is essential we bring all players together to develop solutions. What’s more, we are excited to invite a mobility aids manufacturer to the table. We think this is critical so all stakeholders can work together to take steps to improve the transport journey of mobility aids.”

Article sources: IATA Press Release and IATA Air Travel Accessibility presentation.

Featured image: Miami-Dade County Special Needs Advocate Susan Holtzman, Miami-Dade County ADA Coordinator Heidi Johnson-Wright, MIA Communications Director Greg Chin, and MIA CEO Lester Sola at the inaugural event for new wheelchair charging stations at MIA. Photo: Brent Foster/Airways