Students and staff at Nescot have been working with Heathrow Airport to trial an innovative new scheme to help people with disabilities.
On Wednesday (December 13), a new lanyard was unveiled, which will let airport staff know that the wearer has an invisible disability and may need extra assistance and patience.
The lanyard, which is green and decorated with sunflowers, can be ordered from Heathrow free of charge.
Nescot’s Foundation Learning department, managed by Sarah Aumeer, works closely with Heathrow’s service provider Omniserv to help get students into employment.
The students were invited to Terminal 3 and shown the lanyard as well as improvements made to the facilities.
They were also given a tour, and learnt more about British Airways’ processes, such as over-booking flights.
“Nationally, around 8% of young adults with learning disabilities and difficulties are employed, but in Surrey that figure is as low as 6% - so relationships with employers like Heathrow are important to us,” Sarah said.
“Some of our students have really specific skill sets and abilities, and we’d like to get them experiencing work placements within the airport, or maybe even supported internships.
“Some students have really methodical and logical skill sets. If they were in a job where things needed to be done in carefully-orchestrated steps, they would be perfect.
“Other students are ideal for customer service roles. For example, one of our students is polite and happy all the time, and wouldn’t lose her smile even if an upset airline customer was shouting.”
Heathrow Airport was rated ‘poor’ by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in August for its services to people with disabilities, and a spokesman said staff have been working hard to improve.
The special assistance area in Terminal 3 has been revamped, with an emphasis on visibility, and the signage has also been improved.
The launch event on Wednesday was also attended by parliamentary under-secretary for transport Paul Maynard, and chair of the Heathrow Access Advisory Group, Roberto Castiglioni.
According to figures from the CAA, 7% of all UK citizens avoid travelling by air due to hidden disabilities. Heathrow currently supports 1.2million passengers requiring special assistance every year.