Our strategic partnership with Heathrow Airport began with the joint ambition to improve accessibility for disabled air passengers visiting our capital during the London 2012 Games, whilst also raising over £160,000 for Whizz-Kidz.
During the fantastic summer of sport for the UK in 2012, Heathrow was the first and last port of call for 80% of the Olympic and Paralympic Games visitors. But the Paralympics posed a different operational challenge for Heathrow to the Olympics. It was a challenge of complexity rather than volume – some flights had far higher numbers of passengers with reduced mobility and visual impairments, many of whom were wheelchair users.
In order to meet this challenge, Heathrow chose to partner with Whizz-Kidz and asked us to provide first-hand, expert guidance on how to further improve the airport’s accessibility. Our charity audited Heathrow’s terminal facilities, looking at how the experiences of disabled passengers could be improved. Some of our young ambassadors also helped to produce a new training video for airport security staff and and suggested a number of other improvements to the airport facilities.
George was one of the young people that took part, and he was really thrilled about the opportunity to help the airport get ready to welcome thousands of disabled passengers ahead of London 2012. Here's what he had to say:
Giving Heathrow a ‘wheelchair road test’
George, chair of the Whizz-Kidz Kidz Board, said: 'Our task was to give Terminal 5 a ‘wheelchair road test’ – including getting through security and even boarding a plane (unfortunately not taking off!). Some of the changes Heathrow made in 2012 following our feedback were increasing the number of specialist lifts used to help disabled people get on and off an aircraft – which exceeds any other airport in Europe – new accessible toilets and an onsite wheelchair repair service.
'We even got in the media – with Whizz-Kidz Ambassadors going on Sky News, the BBC, ITV and featuring on Channel 4’s Jon Snow. The legacy of the changes we made during the Paralympic year will continue to benefit disabled passengers for years to come.'
Due to the success of this collaboration, Whizz-Kidz was then chosen as Heathrow Airport’s Charity of the Year during the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Staff and customers alike helped to fundraise for Whizz-Kidz during 2012 through to Spring 2013 with a huge variety of activities of all scales, from collection pots in the terminal building, to fun days, Diamond Jubilee parties and a charity ball. Together they raised over £160,000 – helping to offer the chance of an independent future to many disabled children and young people across the UK.
Cheryl Monk, BAA Head of Community Relations, said: 'The Whizz Kidz team was a pleasure to work with: engaging; resourceful; supportive; flexible and full of great ideas. The partnership proved to be a truly mutually beneficial partnership; for us, helping to better manage airport operations for people with restricted mobility – now and in the future; and for them, helping to raise the profile and much needed funds for such a worthwhile and inspiring charity.'