Visual paging system makes Midway more accessible

September 22, 2011 10:03:58 AM PDT
Efforts to make Chicago's airports more accessible to travelers with disabilities continue with a new, unique visual paging system.

For the first time, deaf and hard of hearing passengers flying in and out of Midway will be able to see paging messages all around the airport.

Twenty-four flight information displays can now help connect travelers who are deaf and hard of hearing with friends and family with the new visual paging system.

"The system has three main components, visual messaging which broadcasts," said Erin O'Donnell, managing deputy commissioner at Chicago's Department of Aviation.

"The standard preprogrammed message on our terminal public address system visual paging allows parties to page specific message for passengers, and then an emergency messaging, during which emergency messages can be broadcast to all passengers.

"The flight information display kiosks are a natural source of information for travelers, and we added this enhancement to the visual for visual paging to those boards," said O'Donnell. "Parties can call our number, (773) 838-9660, and provide the message to be broadcast to customers."

The Aviation Department has been working with the Mayor's Office for People With Disabilities on making airports more accessible, according to deputy commissioner Joe Russo.

"They've done a lot to make the actual physical structure more accessible over time," said Russo, "and recently, they've put in animal relief areas, which can be used by people who use service animals so that they can bring their dogs into the airport to go on travel. And, now of course they are working on the visual paging system, which we're very excited about."

The visual paging system is only available at Midway. They have plans to install it at O'Hare.

"There are lots of technology issues that need to be addressed, but we look forward to launching the service next year," said O'Donnell.

Deaf and hard of hearing travelers like Amanda Christian know it's important to have access to audio information.

"With traveling, obviously, it's not possible to hear all the announcements that are being made through the airport," said Christian. "Also communication access and since 9/11 it's been a lot more of a challenge. There's been a lot more increase in communications."

"There are several citifies that are launching and evaluating different systems," said O'Donnell. "We're very pleased to launch this here at Midway."

"It's a work in progress, but I think it's wonderful," said Christian. "It makes us feel like we belong. We're in first class.

If you book a flight out of Midway, check out the new visual paging system.

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