When we travel by air, most of us don’t instinctively think about the process and the number of industries and services involved in our experiences at the airport and on our flights. We, instead, focus on how to get from curb to gate as quickly as we can and, preferably, with as little drama as possible. The “curb-to-gate” experience is also a focal point for airports as they seek to provide positive customer experiences for all travelers, including those with disabilities.
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) recently worked with Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority to address common obstacles faced by passengers with disabilities and identify opportunities for improving disability awareness and access among airport personnel and vendors.
This included interactive, online training, developed with and through the experiences of travelers with disabilities. For the 26 million adults with disabilities who travel annually (Open Doors, 2015), this promotes respectful customer service interactions and recognizing travelers with disabilities as the expert on their own needs.
For airport personnel, it increases their skill sets and knowledge about a segment of their customer base and promotes high standards of customer service. It also helps businesses identify ways to go beyond the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) to create a culture that reflects all passengers when reviewing and implementing changes to impact traveler experiences.
This is just an example of the type of work that AIR does to contribute to a more equitable world through research; translate evidence into user-friendly products; and provide technical assistance customized for specific audiences. This type of work can illuminate or eradicate previously held assumptions and provide valuable information to governments, communities and businesses. Consider two recent AIR studies that demonstrate that the workforce and socioeconomic diversity within the disability community:
● “One Size Does Not Fit All: A New Look at the Labor Force
Participation of People With Disabilities (2015),” includes a stateby-
state breakdown of workforce participation among people with
● “A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults
With Disabilities (2018)” examines the significant and growing
economic power of the disability community.
Individuals can use such research to advocate for increased workforce opportunities and to reinforce their impact on the economy. Businesses and government may use the same research to inform their review of organizational and federal practices and enhance policies that maximize inclusion and contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce.
Recruitment, development and retention of employees is another ongoing focus across industries. But how can business and employee be supported when circumstances impact an individual’s ability to work due to an injury or illness? The Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury or Illness Network (RETAIN) Demonstration Project combines capacity building coaching and resources, research and evaluation to help states, employers and employees address that question through strategies that help the injured or ill employee return to work or stay at work (RTW/SAW) as soon as possible. Led by the Office of Disability
Employment Policy at the US Department of Labor, and in partnership with the Education Training Administration and the Social Security Administration, RETAIN states work in multi-sector teams that include healthcare, workforce and disability services to determine what RTW/ SAW model works best with the potential to replicate evidence-based and promising practices across their states. Through our diverse portfolio of work on disability issues and our role as a knowledge broker and translator of research, improving outcomes for people with disabilities is part of our missionaligned work to create a better, more equitable world.
Conducting and leveraging research for business, industry, government and organizations presents the opportunity for all involved to achieve this goal.
For more information about AIR and our work, please visit air.org.