Mayor Richard M. Daley today launched a new disability awareness and assistance program at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. The program trains airport employees on how to more effectively recognize and help travelers who may require additional assistance.
“Chicago is home to some 600,000 people with disabilities and as long as I have been Mayor, an important goal of mine has been to promote the full inclusion of people with all types of disabilities into the fabric of our community,” Daley said at a new conference held at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 1.
”Our goal is to provide the best possible travel experience for passengers with disabilities and to ensure that Chicago remains a top destination for travelers with disabilities,” he said.
The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, developed a training program that includes a customized video for airport personnel, including key management and staff.
Some front-line airport employees from the areas of terminal management, security, concessions, ground transportation, traffic management and Traveler’s Aid have received the training and wear a “Purple Airplane” pin signifying their ability to assist travelers with disabilities. In addition, CDA staff has received training to recognize the needs of these families and to provide assistance.
“Under the leadership of Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Chicago Department of Aviation is constantly exploring new ways to provide the highest level of service and assistance possible to each and every passenger who travels through our airports, we have created this Awareness and Assistance program to better meet the needs of our customers with disabilities,” said CDA Commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino.
The Mayor said that as part of the program, the Department of Aviation worked closely with several community service organizations and the Autism Program of Illinois to develop an online airport travel guide that assists parents and families traveling with someone with autism, for whom the sights and sounds of an airport might be overwhelming.
Daley said Chicago is recognized as a top destination for travelers with disabilities and has a long record of success in addressing the challenges faced by people with disabilities.
Chicago was the first city to implement a cabinet-level office for people with disabilities (1990) and recently the National Organization on Disability named Chicago one of the top two cities in the United States for accessibility.
In doing so, the organization highlighted the City’s innovative programs and services for people with disabilities, including the accessibility of its airports.
“The Department of Aviation’s steps to enhance the level of customer service offered to passengers with disabilities at our airports underscores our efforts to realize Mayor Daley’s vision of making Chicago the most accessible city in the nation,” said Commissioner Karen Tamley of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
The “Purple Airplane” symbol designates staff and security personnel at Chicago’s Airports who have received the CDA Awareness and Assistance Program training. The “Purple Airplane” artwork can also be worn by travelers who choose to show they may need additional assistance and is available for download from www.flychicago.com. Travelers can print stickers on readily available labels prior to arriving at the airport.
The CDA has also developed informational materials available at both airports and online to inform travelers with disabilities about the resources available to them at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. The brochures include a map highlighting accessibility throughout the airports.
Daley pointed out other steps the City has taken to increase access for people with disabilities, including a public transportation bus fleet that is 100 percent accessible, an increasing number of accessible public transit stations and the largest fleet of accessible taxicabs in the nation.
“As a result of this new program, travelers with disabilities and special needs who use O’Hare and Midway can enjoy traveling independently, safely and without worry to their destinations,” Daley said.
“We all benefit when people with disabilities can live independently, travel with ease and enjoy the advantages Chicago has to offer,” he said.
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