While many people still associate accessibility with facilitation for wheelchair users, management at Frankfurt airport believe it means much more.
Delivering an accessible infrastructure can be a real challenge at airports, a test Frankfurt Airport met by creating the Terminal for Everyone concept.
For Fraport AG, the company that owns and manages Frankfurt Airport, accessibility means being committed to making buildings usable for everyone, regardless of their age, disability or reduced mobility.
Accessibility means more than a building all people can access unaided. Elevators and washroom facilities should have a specific size and enough room for travel companions. There should be buttons and light switches that wheelchair users and blind people can use with ease. Doors should open with ease or at the touch of a button. Accessibility also means allocating a certain number of parking spaces, with dimensions designed to meet the needs of disabled people.
Maritta Menkhoff knows from personal experience, as a woman with special needs and wheelchair user herself, what accessibility means at an airport. Maritta and her colleague Elena Franck are responsible for Fraport’s service enhancements at the Frankfurt airport passenger Terminals.
“Fraport AG has been continuously refining and improving accessibility standards for decades at Frankfurt AIRPORT,” Maritta said. “Infrastructure of a complex aviation hub requires many individual solutions for disabled people. These solutions often result from experience gained during day-to-day airport operations.”
Although she is not responsible for accessibility at Fraport as a wheelchair user she keeps a keen eye on the airport’s facilities and regularly visits all parts of the terminal to note what still could be enhanced. As a matter of fact, many improvements have been implemented at her suggestion.
For example, Frankfurt Airport’s security control areas also have dedicated lanes for people with disabilities. These lanes are wide enough for wheelchair users and give enough room for manual checks since wheelchairs cannot go through the conventional archway metal detectors. Wherever posts prevent travellers from entering a specific area with baggage carts, special access gates still allow free passage for strollers or wheelchairs.
Escalators or elevators are provided wherever necessary to change terminal levels. On the apron, low-floor buses and special lift trucks built by the airport's own workshop guarantee cabin-level access to all planes.
Maritta believes that the focus should not be confined to physical disabilities. “We often associate accessibility needs with those people whose disability is visible,” she says. “The blind or people with hearing loss are often overlooked, but they also need suitable facilities. Like everyone else, they should feel secure and at ease in our terminals. This is the real purpose of our work here at the airport.”