APEX Insight: Passengers traveling with service animals face the challenge of making sure their dogs are comfortable before boarding a flight. Many airports have outdoor or pre-security areas for animals to “take care of business.” But post-security and once at the gate, another round-trip through security can be an onerous process for service animals and people with reduced mobility or a disability – especially if there’s a flight delay. Vancouver International Airport is addressing the issue with its recently opened in-terminal pet relief area.
Last week, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) unveiled Canada’s first in-terminal pet relief area, giving four-footed passengers a chance to make that always important pre-flight comfort stop. Located post-security in the gate area of YVR’s US Terminal, the facility provides passengers with service or companion dogs, including travelers with reduced mobility, easy access.
“If you’re going to encourage independent travel by people with disabilities, this is the way to do it,” says Brad McCannell, vice-president of Access and Inclusion for the Rick Hansen Foundation. McCannell is a wheelchair user, and has been working with YVR for 23 years, consulting on accessibility design for the airport. He travels with Chip, his nine-year-old companion who’s trained to assist people with mobility impairment.
“If you’re going to encourage independent travel by people with disabilities, this is the way to do it.” — Brad McCannell, Rick Hansen Foundation
“We call this meaningful access,” says McCannell. “You get access that’s required by code, and required by law. This is thinking outside the box. This is YVR saying, ‘You know what, we see a problem that’s not in any code, anywhere. We see people coming through here with their dogs, and now what? What if the plane’s delayed? What do we do?’”
The pet relief area is the size of a large accessible washroom. One end of the room has a shower stall-sized base covered with artificial turf that can be rinsed after use. “It’s our goal and our wish that [passengers] have the opportunity to make sure their pet is just as comfortable as they are, when they’re traveling together,” says Reg Krake, YVR’s director of Customer Care. “There’s a lot of detailed design work that goes in to make sure it’s seamless. All the little features, like the motion-activated ability to open the door, so anybody can access the room, and the low counters for people in wheelchairs. And obviously we have it cleaned regularly to make sure it’s ready for the next passenger,” explains Krake.
When asked for a comment, Chip sat stoically and, as always, waited to help his partner.