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Inclusive Design Collective: Reimagining the airport experience

As part of Rufus’ Respect Week, we explore how the lens of inclusive design can improve the airport experience.

Inclusive Design Collective: Reimagining the airport experience hero


By Rufus Writer

Being unable to access a product or service means being unable to take part in the experience completely – which can lead to a loss of independence. We believe in the beauty of designing inclusively, so we cater for permanent and temporary situations to deliver a comprehensively designed product or service – one that works optimally for all users. Brands who embrace accessibility are showing that they’re genuinely committed to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). That they understand and act to meet the diverse needs of their stakeholders through their commitment to sustainable, inclusive marketing and employment. As part of Rufus’ Respect Week, we’re exploring how the lens of inclusive design can improve the airport experience. (As travel has been on pause for most of the world, it seemed like a good time to reimagine the experience!)

Travel is stressful

Some of us like to arrive at the airport five hours before our flight – others wait until the last boarding call. We each have our own travelling rituals. But either way, travelling by plane can be stressful and exhausting. This feeling is often amplified for those who have different accessibility needs.

On average, passengers to UK airports walk up to a kilometre from the check-in desk to reach their departure gates (The Guardian). This is a primary example of a design choice in everyday environments that hinders people’s ability to participate. And just one airport design problem that has inspired us to set ourselves the challenge: How can digital improve the airport experience for the disabled traveller?

A broad community with a range of needs

There are roughly seven categories of disability, including vision, mobility, speech, auditory, cognitive and physical (.gov). Each one sits on a spectrum – with one in five adults in the UK identifying as having at least one of these disabilities. So, we felt it would be an injustice to all concerned to try and create a ‘one size fits all’ solution. With all this in mind, we decided to focus on travellers who have low vision, which is defined by the NHS as, ‘when your sight can't be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, or by any medical or surgical treatment.’ (NHS)

What’s the problem?

In general, airport environments don’t fully support individuals with low vision to navigate the long journey through the airport as independently as they should. It’s important to note that together, airports and airlines provide the services and support for customers. However, passengers need to contact them both separately to give each the same information. This is both time consuming and frustrating for the traveller, while showing a clear lack of communication and understanding between the airport and the airline. Let’s reimagine how digital could make this experience more seamless and enjoyable.

Lizzy’s inclusive journey

Lizzy is booking a flight to Rome. At the point of selecting a seat, Lizzy’s plug-in suggests row 4c as its closest to the exit and the bathroom. Her preferences are already saved in the plug-in which supports her with other transactions – including letting the airline know she will need assistance at the bag drop-off. 

Before travelling, the airline follows up with Lizzy to tell her about the digital service they offer in collaboration with the airport. The service supports customers by helping them from their arrival at the airport to boarding the plane. Through the airport chatbot, Lizzy asks about the digital support services available to her – adding haptic wayfinding with maps of the airport and the 'Be My Eyes'app to help her board the plane.

As Lizzy approaches the airport bag drop-off area, a member of staff is alerted to her arrival, who, thanks to the customer service portal, knows the level of assistance Lizzy needs. As she heads through security to grab something to eat, the audible alert informs her that the route has been recalculated as emergency building work is taking place. At this point in her journey she’s offered a personal assistant, but Lizzy sticks to her audio and haptic wayfinding to guide her to Wahaca – a restaurant which was recommended due to its proximity to the departure gate. To complete her journey and as planned, Lizzy is given a 15 min reminder that Be My Eyes will call.

Good for Business

Accessibility isn’t just the ‘right thing to do’, it’s also good for business. It’s estimated that this community has a spending power of £274billion in the UK (Purple Tuesday). But it’s estimated that £2billion of The Purple Pound (the spending power of disabled households) is lost a month. All because businesses aren’t meeting the needs of disabled people, of which nearly one in five in the UK identify as. When accessibility is part of the design process, businesses can create better products and services because issues and problems are resolved instantly. This leads to saving time, money, and allows teams to focus on innovation. Simply put, accessibility is cheap, inaccessibility is expensive.


Disability is created through poor design choice. Simply put: the environment, product, service, website, devices etc. does not match an individual’s ability. It’s our responsibility to create digital products and services which customers of all abilities can use and benefit from. We need to ensure empathy is driving our decision. 

At Rufus, we believe in enabling all users to take part in the experience. We design for people.

About the author

Our Rufus Writers are members of our amazing team with years of industry experience delivering considered solutions to all kinds of creative challenges.

Rufus Writer



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