Making Airports More Inclusive for Everyone

Accessibility will open the skies to people of all abilities.


Inclusion, Travel
Accessible airports make travel easier for people with disabilities.

(Andrey_Popov /

People are flying more than ever. From short hops to traveling around the globe, many are on the move. But, navigating airports has never been easy, due to crowding and the multitude of tasks like checking in, taking care of baggage, screening, and finding your gate, it is often difficult to get to where you are going.

If you are in a wheelchair or visually impaired, its even harder. According to the  World Health Organization’s Report on Disability, 75 million people around the world use wheelchairs, 253 million people are blind or visually impaired, and  466 million people are deaf or hearing impaired. That’s why it is important for airports to be accessible for all people, according to a blog on the Airports Council  International (ACI) website.

Inclusion and accessibility
Making airports more inclusive and user friendly isn’t just about planning and designing for people who have differing abilities but it is also about making travel easier for parents with strollers or for older adults. So whether airports are in the design stage where it is easier to implement accessibility, or retrofitting older ones, inclusion is the key.

Some of the ways to make airports more inclusive includes curbside assistance, using texture and colors to assist travelers, low resistant carpeting, universal seating throughout terminals, accessible rest rooms and changing stations, as well as accessible food and service counters for people using wheelchairs.  All of these are accomplishable.

New inclusive terminal in Kansas City
The old terminal in the Kansas City, Missouri airport lacked convenient accessible restrooms, food options and was not particularly inclusive according to Route Fifty. The new terminal that is slated to open on February 28, 2023 is designed to fix many of these shortcomings.

The new terminal has the same number of gates but it is very different from the old. Beginning with a more streamline screening process to boarding the plane, these changes make traveling more inclusive.

The new facility features indoor play areas, all-gender bathrooms, changing rooms, and a quiet room for people on the spectrum who cannot handle the noise and activity of a busy airport. There is even a pet relief area for people traveling with their furry family members.

One innovation is glass walled jet bridges for people who are anxious about getting on and off planes. And for people who are uncomfortable with the whole airport and flying process, there are simulators that allow travelers to go from boarding to take off virtually.

Justin Meyer, the deputy director of aviation for Kansas City told Route Fifty that the new terminal sets a level of inclusivity that passengers will expect in other airports. “The goal isn’t that we’re forever at the head of the line,” Meyer said. “My goal was just to move the bar, so if someone else wants to build the most accessible airport in the United States or in the world, they’re going to have to start where Kansas City stopped... In the end, passengers win.”

Retrofit in Birmingham
The airport in Birmingham, UK, is trying to make travel more inclusive for people with mobility impairments or limited sight or hearing, according to the airport’s guide for disabled facilities.  Some of the services include disabled parking bays, staff trained in sign language, electric scooters, and restrooms that are disability friendly.

One recent visually impaired traveler, Lucy Edwards, was so impressed by the disability-friendly restrooms at the Birmingham airport that she made a Tik Tok video praising the many benefits. When people enter the restroom, there are verbal instructions on the locations of the sink, toilet, paper dispensers, and trash bin. The lights are automatic and sensors enable people to find and use what they need without having to touch any surfaces. This is user- friendly to the max.

While making airports more accessible to people with different abilities may seem like it is expensive or difficult to do, the benefits certainly outweigh the costs. Accessible airports mean that more people and their families will be able to travel and then the skies will truly be friendly to all.

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