Feb. 2022 News
One of the most exciting things now in the works at Open Doors Organization is our new Wheelchair Tag. While airlines do pretty well when it comes to the number of chairs damaged versus the number carried, that's still not good enough. But I understand why: airplanes and wheelchairs go together like oil and water. ODO has long dreamt about creating a universal tag for wheelchairs and then using our aviation network to spread it worldwide. The Tag will not only reduce damage, benefitting airlines as well as passengers, but also expedite the process of sharing information on mobility devices both at booking and on the day of travel. Stay tuned in March for the big reveal!
Eric Lipp, Executive Director
Open Doors Organization
Newest Addition to SATS
We are happy to welcome Sun Country to the Service Animal Travel Solutions platform effective March 1, 2022. By subscribing to SATS, Sun Country will provide a simple, efficient process for passengers to submit their DOT Service Animal Air Transportation form online. In addition, Sun Country will no longer need to review and approve the DOT forms themselves and will be able to efficiently approve travel with a service animal before a passenger arrives at the airport. Once in our system, a passenger can now fly on Sun Country and Alaska Airlines just by providing their unique SATS identifier. To learn more about how SATS can benefit your airline, contact Gina Emrich.
Metrolink, the commuter rail system serving Los Angeles and neighboring counties, is actually operated by Amtrak. As a result, 75 Metrolink conductors will be taking part in our nationwide "Training for Access" classes for Amtrak. While all stations except LA's Union Station are unmanned, the Metrolink trains are quite accessible with 4 wheelchair spaces per car and an accessible restroom. Boarding to the first "cab car" is via a mini-high platform and bridge plate. If additional capacity is needed, the Metrolink conductor respots the train and deploys the ramp to a second car. Metrolink also has two cars without seats that can accommodate large groups of passengers in wheelchairs. Travelers with disabilities receive a 50% discount and a Personal Care Attendant rides for free. Seniors 65 and older also receive a 50% discount (Shown above: Metrolink conductors demonstrating the bridge plate during a class break at San Bernadino).
ODO at UMA Expo 2022
COVID 19 has presented major challenges for the motorcoach industry as it is made up predominantly of small operators, many of whom did not survive the prolonged fall in ridership and revenue. Despite driver shortages and supply chain issues, the focus at the recent United Motorcoach Association Expo in Long Beach, CA, was on the industry's comeback. Spirits ran high as the 500 attendees reconnected after the long hiatus. ODO's 2-hour training for ADA Coordinators was well attended and featured lively discussions. Most of the owners now have lift-equipped coaches and are operating shuttle services in addition to charters and tours. While lack of access information online and training remain industry weak points, the new ODO eLearning courses for managers and drivers, due out this spring and summer, should help bridge these gaps (Shown above: crowded ballroom at the Expo).
Accessible Walla Walla
Any destination can stand out from the crowd by focusing on accessibility. Take for example Walla Walla, a small town in eastern Washington--population approx. 40,000. A recent article in the Union-Bulletin describes in detail all the great things they're doing to put out the welcome mat for visitors with disabilities. Featured are findings from ODO's 2020 Market Study that help make the business case for similar initiatives. As Eric Lipp notes, "People with disabilities want to be part of the return to travel." Proof positive: "The number of folks requesting wheelchair pushes through U.S. airports is now right at the edge of what 2019's numbers were."