By Diana Omueza
The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has reiterated its commitment to rendering improved airport services for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
Mr Kabir Mohammad, Regional General Manager of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, restated the commitment on Tuesday in Abuja.
Mohammad spoke while receiving delegates of Coalition of Disability Organisations (CODO) at his office.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)reports that the visitors used the occasion to present a research on “Accessibility of Nigerian Airports for Persons with Disabilities” which was carried out by them.
Muhammad assured that FAAN was working to ensure its passengers and other airport customers had a five-star travel experience at Nigerian airports.He said that the presentation of the research work would help FAAN to enhance its services to PWDs.
“I thank you so much for taking your time to carry out this painstaking research on how to further enhance accessibility of Nigerian airports for PWDs.
“The objective of this research, which is to evaluate how accessible the infrastructure and facilities of the airports are for PWDS and to observe the level of compliance of the airport, airlines and other airport operators, is a welcome development.
“But while we thank you for this work and its presentation, I would like to say that FAAN has done not all, but most of the things you are talking about.
“I don’t know when this research was done, but I can see it was in February, and FAAN has done most of the recommendations and issues raised.
“And we assure you that our services for PWDs have been greatly improved and will continue to improve,” he said.
Muhammad said that while FAAN appreciated the effort of the group to conduct a research on accessibility of the airport, it was also necessary for PWDs to provide necessary information needed by the airport, airlines and other airport operators to serve them better.
He said that most of the things mentioned in the research were things FAAN had done, “but on your part you are guilty of them”.
“For instance, you didn’t tell us that you will be needing wheelchairs for some of your members and that information would have helped us a lot to also help you in getting easy access.
“It is the same way also while you are making recommendations, it is important that PWDS make available necessary information to the airport and airline operators ahead of time.
“This will assist us to continue to ensure that what is required will be done satisfactorily to the best of our ability,” he said.
Mohammad said that the research document would be disseminated to other airports in the North Central region.
He also said all measures taken to enhance accessibility of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl Airport in Abuja would be replicated in other airports in the region and beyond.
Mr Adeyeoluwa Kayode, Head of Cooperate Affairs, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, also commended the group for the research and assured of continuous improvement in corporate airport service delivery to PWDs.
Kayode said that through the airport’s facilitation team, the recommendations made by the research document would be communicated with airlines and other airport operators to add more value to their services.
Mr David Anyaele, the convener of the CODO, who was represented by Ms Chioma Egede, Coordinator, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria (SCIAN), said that the research goal was aimed at removing barriers preventing PWDs from accessing airport services on an equal basis with others.
He said the objectives of the research was also to evaluate the accessibility of Nigerian airports, and facilities to PWDs; and to assess the level of compliance of airports, airlines and other airport operators to the provisions of the National Disability Rights Act 2018.
“This research project on Enhancing Access to Airports for Persons with Disabilities was carried out by CODO in partnership with the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria and Hope Alive for Possibilities Initiative (HAPI), with support from Disability Rights Fund (DRF).
“Based on the findings of our study, with reference to airports, airlines and other airport operators, we make the following recommendations:
“That travel information should be provided in accessible formats, including Braille, audio and visual, as well as availability of sign language interpreters to assist deaf passengers, and announcement should be done in multiple formats.
“There should be provision for the inclusion of information at booking point for PWDs to indicate their status and special needs for the airline/airport officials to make necessary arrangement to meet their needs.
“It should be mandatory for ground staff and cabin crew to give necessary and timely assistance to PWDs who may need them, and special training should be organised for airport and airline personnel on the provision of assistive services”, he said.
He urged FAAN to procure and deploy mobile wheelchair elevators to support boarding and disembarking of physically challenged passengers and disability friendly buses be provided at tarmacs.
Anyaele reiterated that the group was ready to support FAAN’s efforts toward the attainment of all recommendations for the benefits of PWDs.
The Coalition of Disability Organisations is a network of disability focused organizations in Nigeria that works to promote inclusive society, free from discrimination on the grounds of disability.