We are at the beginning of a cultural revolution, the genesis of a conceptual framework identifying the Greek letter alpha as the universal symbol of access to aviation and beyond.
The mission of Reduced Mobility Rights, the organization I envisioned and founded two years ago, is to promote and deliver access to aviation.
As time went by, I have become growingly aware of the implications of language and symbols commonly used to identify shortcomings and support services. Instead of focusing on people’s ability, these words and symbols are a constant reminder of individual impairments.
Instead of helping achieve inclusion, the symbol most commonly used to identify accessibility has morphed into a discriminatory label marginalizing wheelchair user and preventing access to assistance for those who do not wish to be associated with it. In other words, what was meant to protect the dignity of people with special needs has become an icon of indignity.
People who require assistance to travel by air, or move about in their everyday life need an accessible environment and assistance. Accessibility and assistance have one common denominator.
Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, is universally known as a positive symbol, the synonym of genesis, of birth.
In our case, Alpha is the genesis of a cultural revolution. Breaking away from language and symbols of the past, the introduction of a single universal symbol which identifies accessibility and assistance is the foundation upon which future legislation, infrastructure, and services guaranteeing access to aviation and beyond must be built.
Access to aviation can only be achieved through inclusion. Implementing inclusion requires the elimination of negative and marginalizing labels.
This Cultural Revolution resolves many of the hurdles airports and airlines experience delivering support to passengers. At operative level, assistance shall be redesigned to guarantee delivering excellent support to individuals with greater needs while providing simplified assistance to those passengers, the vast majority, who predominantly need guidance.
In the past two years, Reduced Mobility Rights spearheaded an industry-wide awareness campaign on the subject of access to aviation. I believe we have achieved the goals of this first campaign, acknowledged by the Vice President of the EU Commission Siim Kallas, European Civil Aviation authorities, numerous airport operators, airlines, tour operators, travel agents, associations and passengers with special needs.
Today we embark in a new, far more ambitious campaign, the Alpha project. For starters, we have cleaned our own house by changing the old logo, a wheelchair, now replaced by the Greek letter Alpha. We have decommissioned the use of labeling language.
Next week, Reduced Mobility Rights will be publishing a report based on my research on accessibility and assistance services at airports across the European Union. I have visited and assessed 18 airports, seven of which among the 10 busiest in Europe by total passenger traffic. Other initiatives like the publication of operative recommendations to help lawmakers draft the revision of EU regulation 1107/2006 will follow.
I am immensely grateful to all those men and women I have met in the past year, who have directly and indirectly contributed to forge the conceptual framework of project Alpha. I am honoured to set this revolution into motion, the first step towards delivering change so many of us want.
About the author
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni is an expert of airport accessibility, management and support procedures of passengers with special needs and air travel related regulations. He has been a frequent flyer for the past three decades and has several years of experience as travelling partner of a passenger who requires assistance.
Roberto provides accessibility and access consulting services to airports and airlines. He is a member of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Access To Air Travel Working Group. He is also a member of the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group. Esaag provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance.