The National Academies

ACRP 07-13 [Completed]

Enhancing Airport Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities

  Project Data
Funds: $389,792
Research Agency: Gresham Smith and Partners
Principal Investigator: James Harding
Effective Date: 6/9/2014
Completion Date: 2/17/2017

Independent travel in airports for elderly and passengers with disabilities such as visual impairment, mobility limitations, or problems with short-term memory presents complex navigational challenges that are not met by standard approaches to wayfinding and signage. While adequate illumination and ADA-compliant signage as recommended in ACRP Report 52: Wayfinding and Signing Guidelines for Airport Terminals and Landside may provide some benefit, additional efforts are needed to enable airports to help these passengers travel independently and with dignity in airport environments. Meeting the wayfinding needs of these travelers is currently accomplished by the provision of personal guides for assistance.  In the United States, no currently implemented accessible wayfinding systems are optimized to provide information for wayfinding and travel by people with cognitive, sensory, or mobility challenges in complex indoor environments such as airports. Currently the field is centered on development of indoor position-sensing technologies, such as talking signs and on delivery of wayfinding information using speech output from a smart phone. With the projected growth in the number of aging travelers, it is imperative to develop practices to accommodate the wayfinding needs of the elderly and passengers with disabilities as further defined by the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook to help airport operators and planners assist the elderly and persons with disabilities with pedestrian wayfinding systems in standardized accessible formats to help them to travel independently within airports. The guidebook should address travel by people with cognitive, sensory, and other mobility challenges. The guidebook should include, but not be limited to, (a) a template for a baseline airport wayfinding accessibility audit; (b) instructions to assist airports in creating a signage and services gap analysis as well as a wayfinding plan; (c) visual, verbal and virtual wayfinding aspects to help the passenger with directions; (d) methods that would allow aging travelers and passengers with disabilities to comfortably utilize technology for wayfinding (e.g., mobile GIS for airports); (e) suggestions of web-based information for assistance (e.g., airport, airline, TSA websites); (f) standardization of wayfinding user interface systems within the airport(s) including technological interfaces; (g) compliance with federal and international regulations and standards (e.g., U.S. Access Board, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Transportation); and (h) coordination among a variety of stakeholders at airports to include airlines, security check-point and ground transportation operators, and so on.
The research plan should include two phases and will include the following tasks.
Phase I
Phase I should include at a minimum, the tasks described below.
(1). Identify wayfinding practices and state-of-the-art techniques that address the needs of the elderly and passengers with disabilities. Include tested examples from airports and other industries. (2). Develop a list of governing principles and practices for the design of wayfinding systems that will aid elderly and passengers with disabilities (e.g., standardized user interface recognizable from airport to airport). These principles can be used by designers and airport owners to fit the unique needs of their facilities and should be based on Task 1 and will be used to develop Task 3 and Task 4.  (3). Develop and test conceptual ideas based on current and developing technology solutions that address the needs of the elderly and passengers with disabilities in all situations (including IROPS) and at a variety of types and sizes of airports.(4). Develop a vision of a virtual conceptual airport (medium hub) expressed in narratives, maps, illustrations, photographs and animations to demonstrate the implementation of a complete wayfinding system inclusive of ground transportation. (5). Prepare an interim report that includes (a) a description of work completed in Phase I, (b) a detailed outline of the proposed guidebook, (c) a draft sample chapter of the guidebook, (d) a draft wayfinding accessibility audit template, and (e) an updated work plan for Phase II.
Phase II
Phase II will consist of additional tasks deemed appropriate by proposers and development of the final deliverables.  The final deliverables will include: (1) a guidebook that meets the requirements as described in the objective; (2) a PowerPoint presentation summarizing key findings of the guidebook suitable for dissemination at industry conferences; (3) a contractor’s final report that documents the entire research effort, including any assumptions used and the research team’s recommendation of research needs and priorities for additional related research.
The research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the ACRP panel, including at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed and (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting, as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to the panel review and ACRP approval of other deliverables deemed appropriate.
STATUS:  The research has been completed. Publication is pending.  

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