There are numerous laws and regulations in place to protect and support people with disabilities. Both on a national and international level these frame works give consideration to ethical and moral obligations within society and enable an enforceable set of rules.

Being aware of and understanding how to apply these rules and regulations is not only important to protect oneself or any client from breaking the law, but also a good argument when considering to apply inclusive design techniques.

This section introduces several national as well as international law papers and especially European regulations relating to the protection and inclusion of people with disabilities. Not going into excessive detail the purpose is merely to demonstrate the legal requirements in addition to moral and social obligations on designers and planners.Law papers and regulations generally cover a wide range of environments but for this dissertation I will focus on the legislation applicable to the airport environment.

National Law

On a national level the legal requirements and regulations might differ in detail, but generally parallels can be drawn and applied to successfully enable access and usability for people with disabilities.

In Britain the ‘Equality Act 2010’ replaced most of the previous ‘Disability Discrimination Act 1995’ and provides a unified legislation for equality. With concern to disability it “aims to protect disabled people and prevent disability discrimination.” [1.]

For the users of services it states that no one must be discriminated against, harassed or victimised because they face disability.[2.] This means that anyone providing a service of any kind to a part or the whole of the general public has the responsibility to ensure fair treatment and take reasonable steps to make their goods and services accessible to all.[3.] Within the text ‘The legal argument for inclusive design’ and its subheading ‘Services and facilities-related design’ Casserley and Ormerod describe this last part of the sentence – the responsibility to take reasonable steps – as “the cornerstone of Part III of the {Disability Discrimination} Act {…}.” [4.] They further state “service providers have to anticipate the needs of disabled people in advance.” [5.]

Keeping that in mind, reasonable steps might be a fairly broad definition and what is not considered reasonable at present might be in the future. However this statement and its basic principle was at the heart of consideration and analyses of the later case study in chapter three. But since the ‘Equality Act’ is limited to Britain, a closer look at the legal situation in Germany is necessary.

The ‘Gesetz zur Gleichstellung behinderter Menschen (BGG)’ – which translates as the law of equalisation for people with disability – is in place in Germany since 2002 and applicable to the area of public law. That means it regulates and protects people with disability from discrimination and disadvantage when interacting with or using the facilities of any government body or institution.

It can be broken down to its two most important statements: The need for freedom from barriers and the prohibition of disadvantage based on disability.[6.] Although this law is not employable for the airport environment, its contents and regulations are far more defined and detailed as those within the applicable ‘Allgemeines Gleichberechtigungsgesetz (AGG)’ (law for general equality). Both papers outlines are helpful as background information at this point – and might be referred back to in form of proposed cross adaption.

The ‘BGG’ uses the word ‘Barrierefrei’ which means free of barriers. It establishes the legal requirement for newly constructed and remodelled state institution buildings to be free of barriers for people with disability, as well as all existing state institution buildings to take all possible measures to create an accessible environment. Translated the ‘BGG’s’ section on ‘Barrierefreiheit’ (freedom of barriers) defines all build and other environments, means of transportation, systems of information processing, acoustic and visual sources of information and communication devices, as well as other designed areas of life, if they are accessible and usable for people with disability, as they are in common practice, without particular complication and generally without outside help.” [7.]

The previous definition and consequential legal requirements for government bodies and institutions go into a lot more detail and are far more demanding than those in the ‘Allgemeines Gleichberechtigungsgesetz (AGG)’ which is applicable to private law. The ‘AGG’ is valid since 2006 and its purpose is the national  enforcement of the European guideline for equal treatment.

At its core is the legal prohibition of disadvantage caused by disability, gender, race, religion or any other protected characteristic. It is applicable for bulk business, a service provider or business offering a product or service to customers regardless of their characteristics – which we can include the airport environment in. For those it states that the same products and services offered on a common basis must be available to everyone. Unfortunately the ‘AGG’ has no further definition and requirements as to what equal treatment in the build environment or with regards to access and usability of navigational systems means.

Similar law papers governing discrimination and disadvantage can be found all around the world – another example would be the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act’ which was enacted in 1990.

European Law

Effective from the 5th of July 2006 and in place to regulate the treatment and support of people with disabilities whilst using air travel is the ‘Regulation (EC) 1107/2006’ of the ‘European Parliament and of the Council’.

The opening paragraph states: “The single market for air services should benefit citizens in general. Consequently, disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, whether caused by disability, age or any other factor, should have opportunities for air travel comparable to those of other citizens. Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have the same right as all other citizens to free movement, freedom of choice and non-discrimination. This applies to air travel as to other areas of life.” [8.]

Although the ‘Regulation 1107/2006’ is a great indicator of progress to the inclusion process of people with disabilities, the opening quote also shows that there is a strong focus on mobility impairments. This finding was also supported by a visit and interviews at Frankfurt airport discussed in chapter three. When considering the accessibility and usability of places and services, mobility impairments – and the classic example of wheelchair users – are often of most or even the only concern for designers and planners. This is the reasons why this dissertation focuses on visually impaired users.

A good place to start understanding this fairly recent set of regulations is the ‘Your rights to fly’[9.] guide developed by the ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’ and the ‘Department for Transport’, as well as the ‘Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility – Code of Practice’.[10.]

It explains that the ‘Regulation No 1107/2006’ is valid for every airport within the ‘European Union’ and guarantees access to aerial travel without discrimination or extra cost for those with any type of impairment or disability.
The only exceptions might be those caused by safety regulations on a national or international level, or impossibilities such as physical size of aircraft doors.

Travellers are required to inform their travel agent, airline or airport no later than 48 hours before departure to guarantee optimum care. After arriving at the airport they are expected to make themselves known via the provided help points, check-in or booking desks, or by informing a member of staff.

For waiting times the regulation stipulates that 80% of passengers should wait no longer than 10 minutes for assistance, 90% of passengers should wait no longer than 20 minutes and 100% of passengers should wait no longer than 30 minutes. Passengers with conditions that can be affected by flight might need to provide medical clearance – if the condition is stable however, medical proof for the providing of assistance must not be asked for.

They are then entitled to assistance throughout their entire journey. That includes help navigating and moving through the airport, priority access to the check-in, security and boarding process.

For airport personnel the regulation requires that “all staff dealing with the traveling public at airports or on planes must have disability awareness training.“ [11.]

Whilst this regulation ensures that no one can be denied access to the travel services offered by an airport because of their disability, it does not give guidance as to whether the airport environment and navigation systems need to be designed in an accessible manner to ensure independent usage. The regulations main aim is to force airports and airlines to institute a service providing outside help to everyone that needs it.

Creating truly inclusive solutions and moving the integration of people with disabilities in society forward, the usage of the airport environment and travel services would need to be usable to as many people and as independently as possible. In 2002 the ‘United Nations‘ published the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’. As its main purpose the convention states “{…} to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”[12.]
It is a fairly brief addition to the ‘United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and the ‘International Covenants on Human Rights’ focussing exclusively on the rights of those – as the ‘United Nations’ define – “{…} who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”[13.]

Further the convention states that the “State Parties shall {…} take appropriate measures to: {…} Ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities; {…} {and} Provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms; {…}”[14.]

In regards to inclusive design, or in this case the related field of universal design, the ‘UN’ presents the general obligation “to undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities […] which should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disabilities, to promote their availability and use, and to promote universal design in the development of standards and guidelines”.[15.]

Especially these last paragraphs make it clear that the ‘United Nations’ are making the implementation of inclusive design standards a legal requirement for products, facilities and services open to the general public. This also shows that the requirements stated in Germany’s ‘AGG’ law might not be sufficient to enforce this.

“’Universal design’ means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. ‘Universal design’ shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.”[16.]

Directgov, n.d.. Disabled People: Disability and the Equality Act 2010 {online} {Accessed 29 December 2011} [1.]

Equality and Human Rights Commission, n.d.. Equality Act Starter Kit {online} {Accessed 26 November 2011}; Module 1 [2.]

Equality and Human Rights Commission, n.d.. Equality Act Starter Kit {online} {Accessed 26 November 2011}; Module 7-8 [3.]

Casserley, C. and Ormerod, A., n.d.. The legal argument for inclusive design. In: Clarkson, J., Coleman, R., Keates, S. and Lebbon, C. eds, 2003. Inclusive Design: Design for the whole Population. London: Springer-Verlag, Ch.8; p.149 [4.]

Ibid. [5.]

Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für die Belange behinderter Menschen, 2002. Behinderten Gleichstellungsgesetz, {online} {Accessed 29 December 2011} [6.]

Ibid. [7.]

European Union, 2006. Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006, {pdf} {Accessed 26 November 2011}; p.1 [8.]

Equality and Human Rights Commission and Department for Transport, 2011. Your rights to fly – what you need to know: A step by step guide for disabled and less mobile passengers {pdf} {Accessed 26 November 2011} [9.]

Department for Transport, 2008. Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility – Code of Practice {pdf} {Accessed 26 November 2011} [10.]

Equality and Human Rights Commission and Department for Transport, 2011. Your rights to fly – what you need to know: A step by step guide for disabled and less mobile passengers {pdf} {Accessed 26 November 2011}; p.15 [11.]

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2006. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, {online} {Accessed 29 December 2011}; Article 1 [12.]

Ibid.; Article 1 [13.]

Ibid.; Article 9 [14.]

Ibid.; Article 4F [15.]

Ibid.; Article 2 [16.]