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Plymouth dementia expert plays role in new CAA guidelines on hidden disabilities

Posted on January 17th 2017

Ian Sherriff, who is supported by PenCLAHRC, has helped develop new Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guidelines on hidden disabilities and airports.

New guidance published by the CAA will help passengers with hidden disabilities get better support at UK airports and more effective communication ahead of travel, to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Following a wide-ranging consultation with airports and disability organisations, the CAA has set out a number of key guidelines that include providing identity badges, bracelets or lanyards and ensuring information is available in a range of formats, including clear pictograms and audio messages.

In addition, airports are being asked to consider providing quiet routes and areas, and ensure that airport staff, including security staff, are given enhanced hidden disability training.

Ian Sherriff is Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD) and chair of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Air Transport Group.

He commented: 

“As someone who is totally committed to helping our society tackle the many challenges that people with dementia and their carers face daily, I am really excited about the innovative approaches that have been used to develop these guidelines.”

The guidelines also insist that people with hidden disabilities should never be separated from those accompanying them on a journey during a security search. Security personnel must explain in advance what screening will take place and make any necessary adjustments.

Airports should also consider facilitating ‘familiarisation visits’ or open days for passengers prior to travel to help them experience the airport and aircraft environment. 

Mr Sherriff continued:

“There is widespread recognition at the highest level of Government of the present and potential future impacts of dementia. The search for ways to enhance the quality of life for those affected is a constant and complex one. Creative projects such as hidden disabilities guidelines have the potential to open up new ways of working in partnerships in the world of aviation.”

UK airports have welcomed the guidance, which clarifies their legal obligations to provide ‘special assistance’ to any person with a disability or reduced mobility – including those with hidden disabilities such as dementia – when travelling through an airport and boarding an aircraft.

Richard Moriarty, Director of the CAA’s Markets and Consumer Group, said: 

“We’re really pleased with the support UK airports and disability organisations have provided to help us develop this guidance. However, this is just the start and over the next six months we expect airports to make changes and improvements to the services and assistance they provide passengers with hidden disabilities.”

Mr Sherriff appeared on BBC Breakfast News to discuss the new guidelines. 

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