Tulsa International working to become first dementia-friendly airport in the United States

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa’s airport is hoping to add even more accommodations for disabilities.

Tulsa International Airport is working with Dementia Friendly Tulsa (DFTulsa) to become the first dementia-friendly airport in the United States.

“We are committed to providing a positive air travel experience for all passengers who come through TUL. That includes those with visible and non-visible disabilities, such as dementia,” said Alexis Higgins, CEO of Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT) “We hope to eliminate barriers that create stress, anxiety, frustration, and even fear. DFTulsa is providing us a foundation that we’ll continue to build upon.”

Dementia Friendly Tulsa is a grassroots initiative launched by Mayor G.T. Bynum in April 2017.

“Making Tulsa a Dementia Friendly City was one of the first initiatives we launched when I became mayor, and I am excited to see this program expanding to Tulsa International Airport,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “I want to thank the airport staff for working to eliminate the social stigma around memory loss while empowering both patients and caregivers to engage safely in our community for as long as possible.”

The volunteer-driven program is free to businesses and organizations. It focuses on enhancing the city’s inclusion and meaningful engagement of those with cognitive decline, as well as their caregivers.

Airport employees will begin participating in the DFTulsa program and online resources.

The airport will also begin to implement dementia-friendly strategy including:

· Providing first responder dementia-friendly training to all airport police officers.

· Distributing the DFTulsa program to Airport Ambassadors, tenants, and other stakeholders to enhance their awareness of dementia characteristics and how to better interact with passengers and respond to potential concerns.

· Increasing knowledge about TUL’s Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard program adopted in December 2020. Pioneered by London’s Gatwick Airport in 2016, the lanyards provide a discreet way for airport representatives to be aware that a person may need additional assistance or have special needs. Hidden disabilities include, but are not limited to, dementia, autism, learning disabilities, anxiety issues, mental health impairments, and hearing loss.

· Ensuring Transportation Security Administration (TSA) information and notification cards for travelers with special needs are easy to access.

· Reviewing all current and future airport wayfinding and signage to ensure design and layout are clear, visible and easily interpreted.

“Currently, 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type,” John Dornblaser, Dementia Friendly Tulsa chairman, said.

“The early-to-middle stages of the disease can last a decade or more, so many people are able to continue enjoying an active social life, including traveling, for multiple years.” Bryan Crook, Director of Customer Experience at TAIT said, “Becoming dementia-friendly further enhances TUL programs already in place that provide people with disabilities unbiased access to the airport.”





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