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An event took place at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) to better understand the barriers that exist for travellers with disabilities or who require additional support at the airport.
“It is important for us to ensure the services we offer at the airport reflect the needs of our community now and in the future,” said Barry Rempel, president and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA). “This opportunity to hear directly from individuals who may encounter barriers at the airport is of great value to us as we continue to launch new programs and work with multiple partners to ensure travel is accessible for all.”
Sixteen guests with different individual needs, along with representatives from partner and community organizations, moved through a mock travel experience at their own pace and in a staggered fashion. The exercise, called the YWG Lived Experience, involved thoroughly evaluating the measures in place to support all travellers at the airport.
“Manitoba Possible is proud to work alongside partners like WAA to remove barriers to full and equal participation for persons with disabilities,” said Lindsey Cooke, Director of Provincial Services at Manitoba Possible (formerly the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities). “The leadership demonstrated by WAA and the mYWG Accessibility Committee in their commitment to not only meet, but exceed, the legislated accessibility requirements is commendable.”
Hosted by WAA and sponsored by Air Canada, the event mirrored the process of catching a domestic flight out of YWG. Participants had to check in for their flight, drop off their bags and navigate the passenger process through to boarding an aircraft. Additionally, participants also went through the international arrivals process, where they used passenger processing technology like the Primary Inspection Kiosks.
“We were pleased to help WAA simulate a real travel experience to ensure the exercise accomplished its purpose of generating meaningful, accurate feedback in the area of accessible travel for all parties involved,” said Trevor Anderson, station manager at Air Canada.
The idea for the event came from the mYWG Accessibility Committee. WAA formed this committee to gain insight from airport partners and community leaders to help steer decisions in the area of accessibility. A number of committee members helped to coordinate volunteers for the event, who moved through the airport experience and then filled out a survey to share their feedback. The survey results will be used to guide future initiatives to help further create an inclusive airport environment.
While this event was hosted to gain firsthand feedback, WAA also offers personalized tours year-round through its Passenger Rehearsal Program. This first-of-its-kind service to launch at any Canadian airport invites individuals with disabilities or who require additional support to sign up to receive a guided tour of the airport before they travel. This ongoing program, paired with events like the YWG Lived Experience, raise awareness of the supports and services available at YWG to help all passengers enjoy positive travel experiences.