We were invited to attend and speak at the 4thannual airport leadership PRM conference in Paris earlier this month. The event was hosted by Ozion. Who provide airports and service providers critical software to help with the management of PRM service levels. 

Speakers dinner – the night before…

The conference had presence from the European Commission, IATA, UK CAA, several airlines and airport managers across Europe.

There was a clear presence in the room from the UK. Including British Airways, Gatwick, Heathrow and Birmingham airports, OCS, ABM/Omniserv and Wilson James. A clear indicator that the UK is really taking the lead on the global map in improving accessibility for PRM’s in aviation. 

The attendees…

The conference had an exclusive workshop led by the European Commission. To identifying best practices to further enhance the scope and application of Regulation (EC) 1107/2006. This was supported by airports, airlines, service providers, regulators, trade associations, experts, and persons with disabilities contributed.

Presentation of ableMove..

Following the workshop, ableMove was presented and was extremely well received in the room. It’s incredible to see all the support from industry towards our innovation and their understanding of our focus to making sure passengers’ safety, dignity and comfort comes first.

Key takeaways from the conference

Overall, the key takeaways were:

Harmonisation – is critical to driving positive change – this means, aircraft manufactures, airlines, airports, charities, and most importantly the disabled community all working together to ensure aviation is accessible for all.

Policy – is fundamental to ensuring the change we want is implemented and this stems from harmonisation. 

Us – It should no longer be about ‘We’ do it this way, ‘We’ do it that way. The industry has no consistency in place and in order to improve on that, we need to change our perception and stop working in silos. The EC stated, the regulation of EC 1107/2206 is interpreted differently by all airports and airlines. Therefore, it must be about ‘Us’, it’s about all of us and how we make the industry work for all. And I think the Global Symposium recently in Dubai, is the start of all three of these above points.

Toileting – This is now on the radar of the EC, and how toileting on aircraft can be improved for people with reduced mobility.

The term PRM – is was lightly debated whether the term ‘PRM’ is still fit for purpose, or rather, should we be adopting the UN definition ‘PWD’ Person with a Disability

Information – A special shout out to Nick Galle, account director for Wilson James at Gatwick Airport who said, “access to coherent and unified information will help encourage PRMs to fly to help overcome anxiety.”

The IATA/Emirates led Global Accessible Air Travel Symposium

We briefly mentioned about the Global Accessible Air Travel symposium. Tt’s a first of its kind globally and only happened a few weeks ago in Dubai. The symposium was held by Emirates and IATA, bringing together guests from airlines, regulators, and accessibility advocacy groups across the world. 

Little did we know until we were told by Roberto Castiglioni, the Canadian Transport Agency CEO, Scott Streiner spoke about “No person left behind: Working together to advance the accessibility of air travel”. In order to achieve this, Scott believed in ‘Innovation’ and ‘Alignment’. During his address, he went on to mention the ableMove in his Innovation part. This what he had to say:

Another example of persons with disabilities driving innovation is Josh Wintersgill,a 25 year-old from Bristol, UK who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at age 18 months and has had to use an electric wheelchair since he was 10. Feeling unfulfilled with his job after university, he decided to start a business focused on tackling the problem of uncomfortable moves of passengers with highly restricted mobility between wheelchairs and airplane seats. 

The result was the ableMove, which allows those passengers to stay in the same seat as they’re transferred to and from a wheelchair, making the whole process quicker, easier, and more dignified for all involved – and offering increased safety in the event of an emergency. This innovation won Mr. Wintersgill the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK in 2018, and the first South West Great British Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2019.

When asked what industry could do to facilitate the safe and dignified movement of travellers between wheelchairs and seats, Mr. Wintersgill said, “there is no reason why there cannot be an international standardised process in place. As a minimum, all airlines and airports should have some form of appropriate transferring equipment that can be used for all lifting of passengers. This would ensure better protection for both the passenger and special assistance (providers).”

It is clear, ableMove is now starting to get onto the global radar, and we are playing a small part in making air travel more accessible. Whilst the whole industry is grabbing the problem of inaccessible travel by the hand. It is finally starting to drive change the disabled community has been crying out for, for far too long.