Freedom of movement is a right preserved under EU treaties and it is also aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, regarding accessibility to air transport for disabled people and the elderly, these basic rights are currently not fully realised, thus creating social exclusion.
ICARUS aims to identify, justify and prioritise research and analysis solutions with the greatest potential of improving universal access to air transport. It also strives to initiate change among the main players in the accessibility chain that fosters adoption of effective solutions.
To achieve this objective, the ICARUS consortium unites organisations with the knowledge, expertise and network of contacts required to produce planned project outcomes, results and impacts. Moreover, ICARUS has a stakeholders network composed of key actors in the entire "value chain” of accessible air travel, providing information, feedback, and outcome dissemination.
ICARUS will contribute to initiate change in aircraft cabins and in activities and services to allow easier access to aircraft for all citizens, by providing insights on R&D areas that may alleviate the air transport access issue.
ICARUS’ work plan strategy is based on proven ex-ante evaluation methodologies. Firstly, ICARUS researchers identify the nature and scale of the problem, the involved process and activities, and the technologies and existing solutions. Afterwards, they analyse needs and preferences through the users’, stakeholders’ and experts’ perspective; including real-life observations. Then, the gap between the current situation and the needs is assessed and a preliminary list of solution areas identified. Next, researchers define the R&D fields and innovative solutions that require further advancement, and best practices. Finally, a socio-economical analysis is conducted, providing recommendations following the principles of economy, cost-effectiveness, and European Added Value.
To achieve its purpose, ICARUS aims to fulfil the following tasks:
- Define the current situation in terms of stakeholders, problems, needs and solution areas in the accessibility chain.
- Establish the base line in terms of how the current implementation of existing solutions meets different needs of various target population subgroups.
- Identify solution areas with the greatest achievable contribution to the European Commission stated of “ensuring access to air transportation to people with disabilities, among other facilities and services”.
- Characterise these solution areas in terms of effectiveness, cost, risks, bottleneck, technical and social obstacles.
- Propose and justify appropriate research and analysis approaches to the most promising solution areas. Consider all of the above, as well as the added value of community involvement.
- Contribute to initiate actual changes, specifically through rising awareness, knowledge dissemination and involving key players in the accessibility chain that foster adoption of effective solutions.
Regarding the-state-of-the-art air transportation, the main conclusion has been that improvements, which are typically viewed as only catering to needs of persons with disabilities, also help older adults with less severe impairments, and in most instances, facilitate all air travellers on their journey.
From the user perspective, there are still wide gaps concerning accessibility when travelling by plane. As it has been explained in the project, the trip as such begins months before the actual journey. Having identified the different parts of the journey as well as the main disabilities affected, it can be concluded that more standardisation is needed.
Regardless of the degree of implementation of the currently applied accessibility solutions in the air transport system or the extent to which they meet the needs of people with disabilities or reduced mobility (including older people), these currently known solutions that may be applied to each and every one of the processes that define the air travel accessibility chain stages and sub stages. Even where accessible solutions are put in place, different standards increase the sense of uncertainty among disabled users.