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Gatwick’s Accessibility Day helps to make the airport ‘a less scary place’ for those with hidden disabilities

Currently around 19% of the UK population have a disability and 11% a hidden disability. As much as 7% of the UK population is thought to avoid air travel because of a disability.

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Photo: Tony Pick Photography

Airports can be challenging, confusing environments and more than 40 local families with a family member who has a hidden disability – and their carers – attended Gatwick on Sunday (8 April) for an event designed to make airports feel like ‘a less scary place’.

Held in the North Terminal, Gatwick’s Accessibility Day helped to familiarise people with a hidden disability – and their families and carers – with the sights and sounds of an airport so they have a practical overview of airport processes before they travel.

To simulate the airport environment Sunday’s event included:

• Staff from airlines – Virgin Atlantic and TUI – taking families through the check in process
• Gatwick’s Special Assistance Services team, Wilson James, providing buggy rides
• Gatwick staff taking families through the security process in a fun and relaxed way
• Border Force officials introducing some of their search dogs
• Police officers and a fire engine were also on hand to replicate the entire airport experience

Currently around 19% of the UK population have a disability and 11% a hidden disability. As much as 7% of the UK population is thought to avoid air travel because of a disability.

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Gatwick is aiming to be the most accessible airport in the UK and is currently engaging with a broad range of disability groups to help ensure that the airport makes its services accessible for everyone.

Nikki Barton, Head of Terminals, Gatwick Airport, said:

“Our Accessibility Days have proved very popular and I would like to thank all those who gave up their Sunday to make it happen. Feedback suggests that families find these events a very useful and practical way of making the airport feel like a less scary place before they travel.

“Events like this are also a great way of hearing about what our passengers find useful or would like to see at Gatwick to make their journey more pleasant and less stressful. We know that we will not get it right all of the time, but we are determined to keep talking to disability groups and passengers to encourage more feedback and develop new learning mechanisms to help us constantly improve our accessibility services, facilities and training.”

Maria Cook, Gatwick’s Autism Ambassador, said:

“I would like to thank everyone from organisations across the airport who volunteered their free time to be part of our latest Accessibility Day.

“I am extremely proud to be involved in events like these and to have played a part helping Gatwick to become the first UK airport to be accredited as Autism Friendly and retain its accreditation for the second year running. An important part of the accreditation processes was introducing a Hidden Disability Lanyard and it’s extremely encouraging to hear that airports from across the world are contacting Gatwick for information to help them introduce the lanyard schemes of their own.”

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Former Horsham Council CEO appointed as Chair for GATCOM

New Chair brings substantial experience of chairing committees and similar bodies locally and across the South East.

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New Chair of GATCOM, Tom Crowley.

Tom Crowley – the former Chief Executive of Horsham District Council – has been appointed as the new Chair of Gatwick Airport’s Consultative Committee (GATCOM) – the statutory, independent advisory body and ‘critical friend’ of the airport, it was announced today.

Tom will take up his new role in January 2019 – for a minimum of period of four years – and brings with him substantial experience chairing committees and similar bodies locally and across the South East region. He is also currently Chair of Empty Homes – a national research and campaigning charity – and a Governor of the Chichester College Group.

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Before his appointment as Horsham’s Chief Executive in 2005, Tom held senior management roles at Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and Arun District Council.

In its 62 year history, the 28-strong committee has maintained an independent and unbiased approach in its overarching objective, which is to ensure the future success of Gatwick Airport, while paying particular regard to the impact it has on the surrounding communities and the environment.

The outgoing Chair – Dr John Godfrey – will leave his role in December 2018 after announcing his retirement after eleven years in post. His achievements during this period have been described by Stewart Wingate – Gatwick’s CEO – as ‘considerable’ and include leading the committee through the sale of the airport by BAA to Global Infrastructure Partners in 2009.

John also steered GATCOM through major challenges such as the public consultations on a second runway and the airport’s master plan, through the use of and changes to flight paths, the establishment of the Gatwick Noise Management Board and helped to generate support to secure enhanced rail services to the airport.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick CEO, said:

“I congratulate and look forward to working closely with Tom in his new role as Chair. This post is fundamental to the strength of GATCOM and the committee plays a key role advising me and my senior team about issues of concern to our local communities or that impact the local environment.

“I would also like to express my personal gratitude to Dr John Godfrey for dedicating over a decade to the role. I very much value his contribution to GATCOM and his achievements during his tenure have been considerable and have helped shape the direction the airport.”

Dr John Godfrey, outgoing GATCOM Chair, said:

“I join Stewart in congratulating Tom on his appointment and wish him well in his new role. GATCOM acts as a bridge between the airport management and all the various agencies and interests which make up the wider community which the airport serves. Tom’s background and experience equip him to make a major contribution to the important work of the UK’s leading airport consultative committee.”

Tom Crowley, incoming GATCOM Chair, said:

“I am delighted to have been selected for this important position. Having lived and worked locally for almost forty years I am acutely aware of the economic benefits that Gatwick brings but I also appreciate that the airport’s development and operation generates significant environmental impacts.

“GATCOM plays a vital role in representing the interests of those who benefit from and are affected by the airport and it provides an effective forum to promote constructive dialogue with Gatwick’s senior managers.”

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