Many people worldwide have intellectual disabilities and this has raised questions on whether the transport industry has standards in place to provide comfortable and accommodative travel experience for persons with disabilities. A good number of travel agencies are not aware of the special code put in place to assist PWDs when they travel. The Airline sector is trying to incorporate policies set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
IATA (International Air Transport Association) is a private organization which promotes cooperation amongst the world’s scheduled airlines to ensure safe, reliable, and cost-effective air services. It is through IATA that local airlines use a global system with joint individual ticketing and reservation networks, as well as overcoming differences in currencies, languages, customs, and laws. Airlines operating either scheduled or unscheduled flights are all liable for IATA membership.
Improving Travel Experience for Passengers with Disabilities
Earlier this year, the International Air Transport Association held their 75th Annual General Meeting during which they approved a resolution to improve air travel experience for approximately one billion Persons with Disabilities from all over the world.
The resolution works to guarantee passengers with disabilities access to a safe, reliable, and comfortable travel experience. It calls upon airlines in different countries to embrace and use IATA’s core principles of accommodating passengers with disabilities and focusing mainly on accessibility and inclusion rather than disability- which has always been the norm.
IATA’s resolution wants the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to use its core principles as a foundation for their multilateral initiatives on accessibility for passengers with disabilities. IATA has implemented provision of amenities like wheelchairs for Persons with Physical Disabilities or those with reduced mobility through DPNA.
Disabled Passenger Needs Assistance (DPNA)
In May 2008, IATA introduced the Special Service Request (SSR) called DPNA which caters for disabled passengers with intellectual or development disabilities needing assistance expanding the prior services of only giving standard wheelchairs to the physically disabled. The use of DPNA guarantees proper assistance at the airports of departure, arrival, and transit for self-reliant passengers with intellectual or developmental disabilities such as: Autism, Down Syndrome, Alzheimer’s, Learning Difficulties, Fragile X syndrome, Dementia, and Cognitive Impairment, among others.
Request for Special Facilities Through DPNA Code
Persons with intellectual disabilities, especially children, tend to feel overwhelmed in new environments and thus require special care. Flights may stimulate restlessness and overwhelming feelings along with the challenges of the above-mentioned disabilities. Airlines under IATA allow for the request of special facilities like wheelchairs for passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility hours prior to departure when booking.
Parents of children with intellectual and development disabilities can request for the code through travel agencies or agents to ensure stress-free flights for the kids. If you book through a travel agent, the request is submitted to the airline through the free-text box and once the DPNA code and supporting text is shared, the airline responds to confirm the request. However, it is advisable to directly call the airline you prefer to request the DPNA code and outline the support required as compared to booking through a third party.
How to make the Request
To make the request, add the code “DPNA” in the free-text box which appears on the booking page. Special Service Request codes are used in airline industries to communicate passenger needs or preferences and they are delivered through standardized four-letter codes defined by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Facilities Available Under DPNA Code
You may expect complicated services or extra special treatment under the DPNA code for passengers with intellectual disabilities, however, it starts from the smallest acts and services offered by an airline to ensure these passengers have the best flying experience just like all other abled people. For instance:
- Allowing the family to board first
- Providing a calm and quiet sitting environment
- Serving the disabled passenger’s meal first
- Occasionally checking on the passenger
- Sitting at the front of the plane to allow them get off quickly,
- Allow priority check-in for them.
- Wheel chairs for the Physically disabled and Mobility Aids
- Medical equipment
- Service or guide dogs are carried free of charge if there is proof that the owner is fully dependent on the animal
- Guide for the visually impaired
- Interpreter for the hearing impaired
Airlines under IATA are expected to promptly provide any assistance required by persons with validated disabilities when a passenger makes a request.
Persons with Disabilities face a lot of challenges while traveling by air, for instance, with difficulty in moving around the terminals, maneuvering around the airport, restlessness when flights take long; among others. Such difficulties faced by PWDs is the reason the International Air Transport Association works with airlines; making policies which ensure provision of relaxed and dignified travelling experiences for everybody, especially persons with intellectual disabilities.
By: Linzer Kibebe