Last Friday London Gatwick airport management said they are buying hospital grade hoists to help disabled passengers get on and off planes.
Laura Moore’s voice was loud and clear, and Gatwick management has taken positive action to meet the campaigner’s requests.
On 23 April Laura launched a petition on change.org. “Hoists are essential for all severely disabled wheelchair users,” Laura wrote on the petition’s page. “Imagine a world where you are stuck in a chair and cannot move without the assistance of a hoist. At present airports provide staff to help lift the passenger. Would you really want airport staff, strangers you have never met to man handle you and carry you to your seat? How undignified is that? You would be embarrassed, humiliated, uncomfortable and at risk of injury. It would set the tone for the rest of your flight as being an awkward and non-enjoyable experience.”
The campaigner was not shy in making her point. “Gatwick airport is one of the UK's busiest airports yet they do not have a hoisting solution to allow disabled passengers to be hoisted from their wheelchair at the aircraft door to their seat,” she said.
Within 24 hours over 600 people had signed Laura’s petition. “I'm signing because I have a disabled daughter and we have to carry her from her wheelchair to the to her aircraft seat which is very stressful for us and her,” Maria Faulkner posted on the page.
She was echoed by other parents of children with disabilities. “I am signing this because I have a disabled daughter and cannot go abroad for this reason,” Heidi McGreal said.
On 24 April Gatwick management told the campaigner they are buying medical grade hoists. “Today Gatwick airport placed an order for the Eagle passenger lift! Accessible travel will soon be a little easier for disabled people! Thank you all for your support, signatures and for sharing the campaign,” Laura announced.
The Eagle hoist is the best known medical grade hoist in the airline industry and is available at a growing number of airports across the world.
From Australia to Canada, from the United States to Iceland, Eagle hoists are used to enplane and deplane passengers with severe mobility limitations in a safe and dignified way.
Last year, Reduced Mobility Rights saw a test trial of the Eagle 2 hoist at Virgin Atlantic Airways headquarters in Crawley. Follow this link to read more about the Eagle 2 test trial.
Laura Moore has all the rights to be happy. But Gatwick’s purchase of the Eagle is the easiest portion of a long journey.
Heathrow airport has four Eagle 1 hoists in stock, one per Terminal. Yet, these hoists are rarely, if ever, seen in use. Operating a medical grade hoist requires staff training. It also needs consent of the airline to allow staffs manoeuvre the hoist on board the aircraft.
Heathrow, like Gatwick, delegates assistance to passengers with disabilities to service providers. They are the ones who need to train staffs, and deliver constant refreshers to guarantee the safety of assisted passengers.
In Heathrow’s case, it was impossible to independently verify how many helpers received training and refreshers to run the hoists.
A lot more needs to be done to make sure Laura’s success morphs into a lasting improvement to the quality of assistance Gatwick gives passengers with severe mobility limitations.
Reduced Mobility Rights is ready to help the airport carry out changes to processes and procedures that will allow Gatwick to become an example of best practice for dignified enplanement of passengers with severe reduced mobility.