On International Sign Languages Day: Enhancing accessibility in air travel

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Enhancing the inclusivity of the global flight network is key to ensuring that everyone can access the benefits of air connectivity, and ICAO is fully committed to helping our Member States and the airports and airlines they regulate, achieve progress. On 23 September, International Sign Languages Day, we focus on how we can improve accessibility for persons living with a hearing impairment.

Governments have agreed to a variety of international technical standards for the accessibility of air transport, and these are annexed to the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation, under Annex 9 on “Facilitation.” ICAO provides guidance on the implementation of these facilitation standards in our Manual on Access to Air Transport by Persons with Disabilities (Doc 9984).

Under Annex 9, and more specifically Standard 8.23, States are required to ensure that, when travelling, persons with disabilities are provided with special assistance in order to ensure that they receive services customarily available to the general public. This assistance shall furthermore be provided in a manner that respects the dignity of the individual.

It also requires States to ensure that necessary measures are taken to enable people living with hearing- and vision-impairments to obtain flight service-related information in accessible formats.

This is further supported by the Manual, which highlights the importance of aircraft and airport operators ensuring that they have the means to facilitate communication with travellers who have cognitive or sensory disabilities.

At their ICAO Assembly in October 2022, countries instructed ICAO to continue developing provisions to facilitate the transport of persons with living with disabilities.

Assembly Resolution A41-15 more specifically “urges States to prioritize the inclusion and accessibility of air transport services to persons with disabilities and reduced mobility; and that ICAO exercise continuous leadership on sustainability, including the social sustainability imperatives of inclusion and accessibility.”

As a result, this priority is included in ICAO’s work programme for 2023-2025 and considering the ongoing and planned work in this area, which is being undertaken in collaboration with a variety of significant stakeholders, it is indeed a very important topic for the Organization.


Why do we recognize International Days?

The tradition of observing international days predated the formation of the United Nations; they provide opportunities for educating the public and mobilizing political will and resources to tackle worldwide challenges. They are also an opportunity for celebrating accomplishments.   ICAO actively participates in and promotes these observances, and we align these efforts with the broader international community to address aviation-related challenges and so we can achieve our mission of a safe, secure, and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.