Tammy Jifri - Charity Liaison
Bangalore Airport, known as Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), is India’s third busiest airport and handled 16.2 million passengers in the last financial year. As air travel becomes more popular and affordable, travellers with different needs are also amongst the passengers who use the services at KIA. KIA is operated by Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) - a public-private consortium that is committed to make KIA accessible to the differently abled. They have been working on making the airport an inclusive space for all passengers and have many initiatives and standard operating procedures in place to make travel as seamless and enjoyable as possible for all who fly through KIA.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Gayatri Pradeep, Head of Corporate Communications at BIAL. She shared some of the things that KIA is doing to enhance inclusivity. A point she made that stayed with me was that disabilities are not always visible. For example, passengers with mental health conditions, anxiety or diabetes may not have physical signs that are obvious, however they may need assistance when travelling. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Initiative (a globally recognised scheme) uses a Sunflower Lanyard as a simple tool for you to voluntarily share a disability or condition that may not be immediately apparent. People will recognise that you may need a helping hand, understanding or more time in shops, at work, on transport, or in public spaces. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it is not there.
Globally 1 in 7 of us live with a disability - that is approximately 1.3 billion people! By adopting the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative, KIA offers to help all those with disabilities and especially those with hidden disabilities. The programme is designed to discreetly help passengers with disabilities to navigate the airport. Under the Sunflower Programme, passengers in need of special assistance can pick up a Sunflower Lanyard at the CARE by BLR service kiosks. This means that airport staff can identify them and it lets staff know that they can approach the passenger and offer assistance.
There are several other initiatives for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM), and for the visually impaired as well. Wheelchair users and PRM can use the specially designated Gate 5 at departures and Lane 1 at the departure drop-off outside the terminal building. These areas are ramp fitted. They can request priority check-in and a spot in the designated security lane. For the visually impaired traveller, BIAL has introduced braille menus at all food outlets. In addition to this, some of the employees at KIA are now trained in sign language to help passengers with hearing and speech disabilities. Staff are trained to offer additional support and to extend their time in assisting and guiding special needs passengers through airport procedures. There is a complimentary buggy services at Arrivals Exit Gate 5. All pathways are spacious and wheelchair friendly. Water fountains and public lounge areas are also wheelchair accessible. Now you may be asking yourself, “All this information is good to know, but what does it have to do with the OWC?” As many of you are aware, OWC is very proud to support and be associated with 16 charities across Bangalore who do incredible work to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community. One such OWC supported charity is
ProVision Asia which has been empowering people with disabilities in Karnataka since 1999.
ProVision reached out to the airport as they had many families in the community that they serve who had children with conditions that made it very difficult to transit through the security pat downs at the airport. Krupa Paulson from ProVision Asia arranged a meeting with the Head of Operations and Airport Accessibility to see how they could improve the ease of travel for differently abled passengers. They learned about the Sunflower programme which would certainly help such children. Although the security services at the airport are run by the central government and do not fall under the remit of BIAL, it could certainly raise awareness and sensitise the security personnel to the fact that a passenger may need extra care when they see them wearing the Sunflower Lanyard. Through this same meeting they found that there are over 900 wheelchair users who go through KIA daily. The airport has put in many accessible measures for passengers to be able to navigate the terminal buildings with ease (as detailed above). However, there is still a lack of awareness about what services are available to people with disabilities.
In keeping with their mission of actively working to create a more inclusive society for people with disabilities, ProVision have some exciting plans for sharing the impressive accessibility services at KIA. They will be leveraging their social media platforms and networks to inform the public about KIA’s accessibility services. They are in the process of exploring an in-house guided tour to provide passengers with disabilities, and organisations that work with them, an overview of the airport’s facilities and services - how to navigate the airport and avail of the accessibility services. Finally, ProVision is committed to mapping job roles for people with disabilities at KIA. They are working with BIAL to identify job roles that are suitable for people with disabilities and provide them with the necessary training to excel in their jobs. KIA has already partnered with Mitti, a social initiative foundation that runs cafes which are managed entirely by people with special needs. The Mitti cafe at the airport was opened last year on the 3rd of December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. ProVision is dedicated to creating a more inclusive society for people with disabilities and is thrilled to be working with BIAL to achieve this goal. As an OWC member you are part of a population of frequent flyers. By reading this article I hope I have piqued your interest in finding out more or simply sharing this information with someone who may benefit when travelling. I recently watched a beautiful film called The Duke in which the protagonist Kempton Bunton says: “I am not me without you. We all need each other. You are me. It's you who makes me me. And it's me that makes you you. Humanity is a collective project.”
We all play a part in raising awareness and making the society we live in more inclusive.