Sochi International Airport in Russia is ready to welcome Paralympians from all over the world, nearly 100 days before the opening ceremony of the XI Winter Paralympic Games.
The airport, which is the main gateway for the Sochi 2014 Paralympics, has rolled out permanent accessibility improvements for passengers with reduced mobility as it prepares to receive almost 1,500 Paralympic athletes.
Basal Aero, the operator of Sochi International Airport, has introduced the new facilities and additional staff training as part of its $1m investment in the airport’s accessibility programmes, which will continue to benefit all passengers with reduced mobility long after the Paralympics.
The airport has established accessibility infrastructure, which includes two ambulifts that are used to help passengers with reduced mobility embark and disembark aircraft. These can serve up to five people simultaneously and can be operated with different types of aircraft.
Disabled passengers can comfortably and safely shift from the ambulift to the plane using one of 29 lightweight aisle chairs, which will be enough to serve Paralympians on the peak arrivals day.
Basel Aero CEO Leonid Sergeev said: "We’ve prepared everything to ensure the best and smoothest service for passengers with special needs.
"However, Basel Aero is still searching for new approaches and ways to make the accessibility program even more effective. Airport Sochi pledges to give a warmest welcome to Paralympians and their companions."
The airport has been equipped with mnemonic schemes featuring braille letters, installed near the entrance and inside the terminal.
Special check-in desks have been installed for disabled passengers. Self check-in desks are also available, and are clearly signposted.
Separate lines have been made available in the preflight control area for people with limited mobility.
Yellow navigation signs are present throughout the terminal to help visually impaired passengers make their way through the building, while a wheelchair-friendly elevator with braille letters on the buttons will help them to easily reach the second floor.
The airport’s parking lot has been redesigned to provide 71 dedicated disabled parking spaces, while an additional six spaces have been allocated near the entrance to the terminal for people with reduced mobility.
Specially trained medical assistants will assist the passengers during check-in, registration of luggage and a transfer from the departure lounge to an aircraft, and they can also meet passengers with reduced mobility at the arrival.
The airport has also upgraded and increased its fleet of buggies for disabled passengers through the airport to a total of 30 vehicles.
These facilities were trialled during the 2013 test events season in February and March when Sochi hosted the World Wheelchair Curling Championship, and the IPC Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing World Cup, as well as alpine skiing and sledge hockey tournaments.