Aviation Access Forum (AAF)—Record of Outcomes—20 June 2019

Date:

Thursday 20 June 2019

Venue:

Qantas Meeting Rooms, Terminal 3, Sydney Airport

Time:

10:00am – 12:00pm

Attendees:

Peter Simpson

Physical Disability Australia (PDA)

Tony Starkey

National Disability Services (NDS)
(The Royal Society for the blind)

Sharen Annand

Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA)

Phil Silver

Paraquad

Derek Trafford

Regional Express (Rex)

Zoe Giffard

Virgin Australia

Murray Cobban

Virgin Australia

Representative

Australian Airports Association (AAA)

Alison Davies

Department of Social Services (DSS)

Nici Swan

DSS

Emma Scanlan

Australian Hearing

Tony Jones

Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA)

Peter Little

Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)

Jack Tyrrell

Centre for Inclusive Design

Kim Thurbon

Qantas

Rania Jones

Qantas

Joanne Percy

Jetstar

Claire Donnellan

Sydney Airport

Kirsty Ladd

Sydney Airport

Claudia Cesar

Sydney Airport

Dr Ben Gauntlett

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Aditi McManus

AHRC

Simon Moore (Chair)

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (DITCRD)

Melissa Cashman

DITCRD

Chris Karas

DITCRD

Cathy Koch

DITCRD

Robbie Slape

DITCRD

Apologies

 

Sean Davies

Qantas

Marcia Kingston

Department of Social Services (DSS)

Key Discussion Items

Agenda Item 1:

a) Welcome, apologies and acceptance of the draft agenda

The Chair welcomed AAF members, noted apologies, and the draft agenda was agreed.

b) Previous meeting of the AAF – outcomes and action items

Members endorsed the record of outcomes from the 13 November 2018 meeting of the AAF. Action items from that meeting were discussed as follows:

Action item 1

Airlines to report to back to the AAF on the terminology settled referring to a carer/disability assistant/safety assistant/travel assistant etc.

The Forum discussed the inconsistent terminology used between airlines. Various terminology is currently used, including interchangeable use of the terms disability / safety / travel assistant.

Tony Jones (SCIA) raised a concern that in the absence of common terminology, passengers should have access to the different terms and understand the service level being offered, noting there are differences between airlines and sometimes from the same airline at different airports.

Airlines considered that standard terminology may not reflect the varied service level offered by each airline. Murray Cobban (Virgin Australia) discussed passengers who had booked as carers were not “willing and able to assist” and he would like to see harmonised usage.

Forum members agreed for the AAF Secretariat to undertake further work on this issue using expertise from airport operators and disability groups. The Disability Discrimination Commissioner endorsed the approach and offered to assist.

ACTION ITEM 1: AAF Secretariat to progress consistent terminology and service level work with airline operators and disability groups with assistance from the AHRC

The Forum discussed the use of different equipment, including the ‘Eagle Lifter’ and how it is not always used when it could be. Qantas offered to provide a short presentation on operational use of the Eagle Lifter at the next Forum.

ACTION ITEM 2: Qantas to provide a short presentation on Eagle Lift equipment at the November forum.

Action item 2

AAF Secretariat to advocate on behalf of the Forum at the Assistance Animals teleconference.

The Chair outlined the outcomes from the 21 November 2018 Assistance Animals Working Group (AAWG) meeting where AAF representation sought swifter progression towards national accreditation of assistance and to extend the accreditation to other assistance animals. The AAWG agreed to initially focus on national accreditation for assistance dogs before expanding to other animals.

Action item 3

AAF Secretariat to see if there is a list of disability consultants that have been engaged by the Government and can be provided as a reference for AAF Members.

The Chair conveyed there is currently no Government list of disability consultants, although any future list would be provided when available

Action item 4

AAF Secretariat to formalise Mr Jones (SCIA), membership in AAF.

The Chair noted that Mr Jones’ membership had been formalised and welcomed his participation in the Forum.

Action item 5

AAF Secretariat to advise if weight information is displayed on the blue and white labels.

The Chair advised that blue label devices on wheelchairs include a warning about not exceeding a maximum gross weight of 300kg for the combined user and device. This is derived from the maximum safe working load of boarding ramps or devices of 300kg

Action item 6

AAF Secretariat to provide European case study to AAF, AAF members to provide views to AAF Secretariat who will consolidate on behalf of the group.

The Chair advised the Forum that Secretary of DITCRD has now responded to the Chair of the Community Engagement Advisory Council NSW although the AAF Secretariat would continue to receive further advice as required.

Phil Silver (Paraquad) and Tony Jones (SCIA) both considered that European airports continue to deliver a more consistent and higher quality experience for passengers compared to Australian airports. Melissa Cashman (DITCRD) noted there are differences between the two operating environments and in Europe airports generally take responsibility for some services that airlines cover in Australia. For example, the facilitation of wheelchair movement within the terminal and between flights.

The AAA representative offered to solicit and consolidate airports’ perspectives on the use of equipment and methods that are perceived to be commonplace in Europe.

ACTION ITEM 3: The AAA to consolidate airport views on consistency of approach to passenger facilitation after consulting with airport operators. 

Action item 7

AAF Secretariat to explore options to establish a GoxDex page for the AAF.

The Chair outlined how the Government is transitioning to a new platform to replace GovDex, called GovTeams. As arrangement are yet to be finalised, the AAF Secretariat will advise members when the transition has been actioned.

ACTION ITEM 4: AAF Secretariat to advise members when the transition from GovDex to GovTeams has been actioned. 

Agenda Item 2: New Disability Discrimination Commissioner: Introduction and Priorities

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett, introduced himself and outlined his priorities for aviation accessibility. The Commissioner noted he has extensive travel experience with a disability and has analysed aviation markets in relation to accessibility. Given Australia’s breadth dictated that flying was essential to long distance travel, he had concerns about how airlines in Australia facilitate disabilities.

As the new Disability Discrimination Committee, Dr Gauntlett wanted to assist Australian airlines to be able to offer global best practice in passenger facilitation. His two policy priorities were:

  1. to support airlines to facilitate accessible travel rather than the traveller needing to book and pay for their own travel companion
  2. to ensure that under their National Disability Strategy, airlines worked to enable people with disabilities to travel more.

The Commissioner raised the issue of different policies and definitions around accessibility between flying domestically and internationally. Australia should be a thought leader in accessibility and parties should work towards improving the passenger experience.
Aditi McManus (AHRC) then outlined the AHRC’s current work on developing Federal Equivalent Access Guidelines. They are working with DITCRD to improve understanding of ‘Equivalent Access’ under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT), give practical advice on public transport requirements to operators, clarify responsibilities and establishing how operators can demonstrate compliance.

Ms McManus invited members to participate in consultations during July and August 2019, and would send the AAF Secretariat information with an issues paper following the Forum. The Guidelines are for public transport generally, not just aviation, and that any issues could be discussed in the upcoming workshops or in a submission.

ACTION ITEM 5: AHRC to provide consultation information for Equivalent Access Guidelines to AAF Secretariat for distribution.

Agenda Item 3: Guide dog relief stations

The Chair outlined correspondence received in December 2018 regarding insufficient facilities for assistance dogs to relieve themselves at airports, especially past security points. Phil Starkey (NDS) noted that Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth airports either have or are progressing with new facilities. However, there are often no relief areas to be found after security points.

Claire Donnellan (Sydney Airport) advised that airports deal with different space restraints when renovating brownfield sites. New facilities are considered when projects are initiated, though without clear architectural standards, it can be a risk for airports to invest in new facilities. Sydney Airport’s considered it vital for new facilities to be built airside for the convenience of passengers.

The AAF Secretariat offered to re-circulate Brisbane Airport’s presentation from the last meeting on relief stations for the benefit of new members. 

ACTION ITEM 6: AAF Secretariat to distribute 2018 presentation from Brisbane Airport on their accessible facilities for new AAF members. .

The AAA advised they have a new customer-focussed working group on customer experience, with the aim of developing a consistent framework for hidden disabilities and for quality of access at airports. AAF members are encouraged to contact the AAA directly for future engagement in the meetings.

Agenda Item 4: Presentation from Sydney Airportn access initiatives

Claire Donnellan (Sydney Airport) presented with Jack Tyrell (Centre for Inclusive Design) on a range of recent accessibility initiatives.

Key drivers at Sydney Airport were improving bathroom access, enhancing wayfinding through better signage, and a focus on passenger comfort. This is focussed on ten touch points that passengers have across the airport from arrival to departure. Sydney Airport recently opened a “Changing Places” accredited facility and made the AIRA (Artificial Intelligence Remote Access) app available throughout their terminals free of charge. This enables greater independence for vision-impaired travellers.

Members discussed potential security issues for passengers using this service, especially in regard to expanding this service to other Australian airports. Sydney Airport advised that they had taken steps to ensure passengers were compliant with any Australian Border Force (ABF) requirements. This includes contracting AIRA to only stream the video footage, rather than record it to meet security regulations. Other airports would be able to take advantage of this, if they chose to contract AIRA.

Tony Starkey (NDS) noted that new technology is not a solution for all users, especially older passengers that may be less likely to use an app. These should only be in addition to traditional support offerings, including assistance staff. Ms Donnellan agreed that a range of initiatives were required to meet varying requirements.

Tony Jones (SCIA) stated that the removal of travellators in the Virgin Australia wing made travel more difficult. There are also issues around the misuse of accessible toilets and change rooms by smokers, as well as the security of checked baggage for passengers that cannot control the time it takes to get to the baggage area.

AAF Secretariat took these issues as future agenda items.

ACTION ITEM 7: Sydney Airport to provide presentation on recent accessibility initiatives from 20 June 2019 forum to AAF Secretariat for distribution.

ACTION ITEM 8: AAF Secretariat to consider including ‘misuse of accessible toilets’ and ‘security of checked baggage’ as future agenda items.

Agenda Item 5: Use of Artificial Intelligence Remote Access (AIRA) at Airports

This item was covered in item 4.

Agenda Item 6: Member update on programmes and initiatives

The Chair asked airline representatives about any upcoming projects or initiatives they wished to share with the Forum.

Murray Cobban (Virgin Australia) informed members that Virgin was always considering improvements to facilitate access through new devices, technology and wayfinding infrastructure. Airlines continue to engage with the community and technical experts on new projects.

Peter Little (CASA) offered to update members at the next meeting on new lithium battery requirements.

ACTION ITEM 9: CASA to provide new lithium battery requirements at November forum.

Agenda Item 7: Assistance Animals Working Group update

The Chair asked the DSS for an update on the AAWG. Alison Davies stated that DSS is a facilitator for the AAWG, as states and territories are responsible for the assistance animals accreditation. Western Australia and Victoria developed a scoping paper outlining national inconsistencies and options for national accreditation. An out-of-session paper will be provided to AAWG participants in the near future. The AAWG is focussing on progressing work on common principles for assistance dog accreditation, before expanding the scope.

Derek Trafford (REX) queried whether psychological support dogs accreditation was included in the current scope and Ms Davies agreed to enquire with the AAWG on this issue.

ACTION ITEM 10:     DSS to enquire about whether the AAWG scope includes psychological support dogs.

ACTION ITEM 11:     DSS to provide the AAWG contact list to the AAF Secretariat for distribution.

Agenda Item 8: Other business

The Chair asked Chris Karas (DITCRD) to provide a progress update on the DSAPT Third Review. Mr Karas stated that the modernising process is being reinvigorated. There is a taskforce with the Queensland Government that includes disability and industry representations. A national steering committee is chaired by DITCRD, as it is responsible for the DSAPT, and includes Ben Gauntlett, Attorney-General’s Department, Queensland and DITCRD representatives. The AAF will be informed of further progress on this work.
The Chair opened discussion for any other business. Tony Jones (SCIA) noted the Royal Commission (the Commission) into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability announced on 5 April 2019 has a broad terms of reference and considered it an opportunity to make a submission related to air travel.

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner stated that the focus initially is on institutional care but noted that the Commission is still formulating its approach. He advised members to write to the Commission to seek advice on whether to make a submission rather than to volunteer a submission.

The Chair thanked Derek Trafford from REX for his ongoing service and participation in the Aviation Access Forum and wished him well for his retirement.

Agenda Item 9: Next AAF Meeting

The Chair informed members that the next AAF will tentatively be held on 12 November 2019 in Sydney.

20 June 2019 AAF Meeting Action Items

Action No.

Action Item

Responsible Agency

1.

AAF Secretariat to progress consistent terminology and service level work with airline operators and disability groups with assistance from the AHRC.

AAF Secretariat

2.

Qantas to provide a short presentation on Eagle Lift equipment at the November forum.

Qantas

3.

The AAA to consolidate airport views on consistency of approach to passenger facilitation after consulting with airport operators. 

AAA

4.

AAF Secretariat to advise members when the transition from GovDex to GovTeams has been actioned. 

AAF Secretariat

5.

AHRC to provide consultation information for Equivalent Access Guidelines to AAF Secretariat for distribution.

AHRC and AAF Secretariat

6.

AAF Secretariat to distribute 2018 presentation from Brisbane Airport on their accessible facilities for new AAF members.

AAF Secretariat

7.

Sydney Airport to provide presentation on recent accessibility initiatives from 20 June 2019 forum to AAF Secretariat for distribution.

Sydney Airport and AAF Secretariat

8.

AAF Secretariat to consider including ‘misuse of accessible toilets’ and ‘security of checked baggage’ as future agenda items.

AAF Secretariat

9.

CASA to provide new lithium battery requirements at November forum.

CASA

10.

DSS to enquire about whether the AAWG scope includes psychological support dogs.

DSS

11.

DSS to provide the AAWG contact list to the AAF Secretariat for distribution.

DSS and AAF Secretariat