Imagine a future where everyone has the confidence to travel freely, where societal and physical barriers to access don’t exist. This shouldn’t just be a pipedream; equitable and accessible travel is a fundamental right, and technology has a vital role to play in a future that is accessible and inclusive for all.   

According to the World Health Organization, ‘almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience a disability at some point in their life’. This is a powerful statement, which underlines why we need to reject tick-box culture and foster a society where everyone is empowered to travel freely.   

Jay Shen, CEO, Transreport

Overcoming barriers to accessible travel

There is tremendous potential and appetite for change within the transport industry to embed accessibility into the approach to open up travel for everyone.

Transreport sees this reflected in our daily interactions with transport partners, individuals and organisations, who are already driving change to create richer travel experiences for disabled and older people – from building in more inclusive communication delivery methods to working with technology providers like ourselves to create more choice around assistance requests. 

For example, Transreport recently announced a partnership with East Midlands Airport (EMA) which is a standout airport that has been investing in its commitment to creating an inclusive environment for many years. Every step forward has a positive impact and opens the door to more people being able to travel with confidence. 

To make widespread change, the aviation industry first needs to be able to evaluate and understand the current state of play, recognising the existing barriers and how these can be addressed.

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According to research commissioned by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, three-fifths of disabled consumers have difficulties accessing or using airports and flying. When they tested the customer journey through airports, disabled passengers were significantly less likely to be satisfied and face barriers at thirteen of the sixteen touchpoints.  

How do we collectively move forward?  

The first step is education, and proactively opening up the conversation. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and share knowledge. By educating ourselves, peers, colleagues, and friends, we are giving everyone the tools they need and the confidence to action real social change.   

People with lived experience need to be involved in all key decision-making processes in companies and organisations. In 2024, it’s not enough to just have lived experience in the room.

At Transreport, we have prioritised diversity and inclusion at every level of the business to enable different viewpoints and perspectives to be heard. We also have an accessibility panel of six individuals with unique lived experiences of disability, and diverse experiences of travel across different transport modes. Our panel members review, discuss and stress test different ideas and recommendations to help shape the way our technology works. 

Supporting our partners is also paramount. When working with our partners, be it in aviation or rail, we don’t install technology and leave – we are an ongoing strategic and proactive technology partner. We provide on-the-ground support for users, but going one step further we ensure there is an open and consistent dialogue between us and the business for full transparency, collaboration and guidance for a true partnership and collaboration. 

An example of how we embed ourselves within a client’s organisation is through our recent EMA partnership, who we have been working side-by-side with to refine and create solutions to fulfil key needs of staff and identify any potential pain points when our technology is introduced.

Visibility and technology

Alongside education comes visibility. This can begin with airport and airline teams and staff, hiring people with lived experience of disability and chronic illness, and creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

The power of authentic visibility can help break down and remove misconceptions and stereotypes, leading to more positive and impactful attitudes and behaviours. What’s more, people with lived experience within teams can help identify potential pain points in the airport experience that non-disabled people might not consider.  

The final piece of the puzzle is technology. Technology empowers consumer choice. For example, our flagship technology Passenger Assistance gives people an alternative way to request travel assistance. It creates a layer of reassurance that a request has been communicated and, for the frontline airport staff it facilitates seamless coordination between office and frontline teams, ensuring a consistent and elevated experience for customers throughout their journey and real-time visibility.  

In addition, technology can be an incredible tool for tourists and visitors. For anyone, navigating a new city or destination can be a challenging experience.

Through technology, we have a way of empowering people, from knowing an accessibility request has been received through Passenger Assistance, to finding ways to allow people to learn airport layouts in advance. For many people, there is power in knowledge, and this is where we hope entrepreneurs and innovators in technology can step up.  

Things are changing for the better, but we hope as more people push for a more accessible travel industry, the rate of change can be accelerated. Accessibility and inclusion are a must-have for the travel and transport industries; travel is a fundamental right, and it is in everyone’s benefit and interest to create a new standard of aviation travel for all.