Air travel can pose major challenges for people living with dementia and their companions and airlines are not always well prepared to meet their specific needs, but increasing dementia awareness amongst both the travel industry and relevant policy-makers can help address these issues. Researchers in the University’s Faculty of Health – Katherine Turner, Dr Alison Warren and Ian Sherriff BEM have been engaging in research and policy engagement to improve the experiences of passengers with dementia and their companions.
This project aimed to share some of the key findings from Katherine’s doctoral research which explores the core components of dementia-friendly flying, with policymakers in an accessible, memorable, and thought-provoking way. In order to do this, the team commissioned award-winning cartoonist Tony Husband to develop images depicting and highlighting some of the accessibility issues raised by people living with dementia and their companions when travelling by air. These images will then be shared with members of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge Group for Air Transport as well as the global group, I-DAIR travel, which represents aviation researchers and dementia activists in the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia – which Ian chairs and both Alison and Katherine are members of.
The research team worked with their stakeholder group to prepare the messages they wanted to prioritise in the images Tony would create. For example one of the key requests was that images, particularly those that may be perceived as more negative, should have a positive comment alongside them about what can be done to help people to live well with dementia. A total of 12 images were commissioned and designed in total including three large floor standing banners, eight A3 tabletop banners, and one A3 Foamex board enabling use in a variety of settings.
The most recent Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge Group was cancelled due to continuing challenges with Covid, but it is planned to discuss and present the images to this group when the meeting is rescheduled. As the group includes representatives from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Members of Parliament and senior staff from within the aviation and the tourism industries, it is likely the images will make a widespread impact.
The team have also been invited to display the images at Heathrow Airport during Disability Awareness Week in December 2021. In addition the team will be utilising the cartoons in their discussions with the UK Civil Aviation Authority and Airports Council International (based in Montreal) as part of the presentation of their research findings.