TUL Invests in Making Air Travel More Approachable for People with Disabilities and Other Needs, as They Face Unique Challenges when Airport Facilities Accommodations Aren’t Provided.
TULSA, Oklahoma – May 25, 2023 – Tulsa International Airport hosted a ribbon cutting and open-house event this morning to celebrate the opening of two new guest services areas, which will make air travel more accessible for thousands of airport users. The two new areas, which are both located past the security checkpoint, on the lower level of each concourse, include a sensory room, quiet room, service animal relief area, lactation room and family restroom.
Organizations that provide services for clients who could benefit from the new rooms participated in a resource fair onsite at the airport before touring the new areas. Guided tours for the public were also available.
The new Guest Services Areas are located on the lower levels of both Concourse A and Concourse B. Each concourse has the following amenities:
- Sensory Room – The sensory rooms were designed with our younger passengers with autism and sensory issues in mind. The furniture includes different ottoman shapes and beanbag chairs that can be rearranged. The airport provides fidget spinners for kids to help them release nervous energy.
- Quiet Room – The quiet rooms are the perfect place for people with dementia, PTSD or anxiety to take a break if they tend to become overwhelmed by stimulating environments. The quiet rooms have dimmable lighting and relaxing décor. Fidget mats, which are handmade by Airport Ambassadors, are also available for passengers with dementia. Using a fidget mat is calming for many people with dementia.
- Lactation Room – Mothers who need to breastfeed their children or pump while traveling or working can utilize these private rooms. The rooms are equipped with comfortable furniture, outlets for breast pumps, a changing table and a sink.
- Indoor Service Animal and Pet Relief Area – Indoor and outdoor pet relief areas allow passengers to take care of their furry friends while traveling. The new indoor pet relief areas have faux grass, pet waste disposable bags, hand sanitizer, sink and paper towels for users.
- Family Restroom – The new lower-level family restrooms have both standard changing tables and adult changing tables, which are essential since many adults with intellectual or physical disabilities cannot utilize standard toilets. When adult changing tables are not available, many caretakers are forced to lay someone on the floor to assist them.
When planning what amenities would be included, Tulsa International Airport staff called upon their Access TUL group, which is a volunteer committee the airport created to inform airport staff on the unique perspective and barriers those with disabilities face while traveling. Access TUL members are individuals from the community with a disability themselves, or people who work for Tulsa area organizations that serve or represent individuals with disabilities.
“Our team is passionate about improving access to air travel in Tulsa, because we believe that enables individuals and families the freedom to explore new parts of the world, visit loved ones, chase business opportunities and do so much more,” said Alexis Higgins, Chief Executive Officer at Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust. “We are excited to be able to offer these new amenities just in time for summer travel, and we welcome ideas from the community on other ways we can improve.”
The total project cost for design, construction and furniture for both Guest Services Areas was $739,757. GH2 Architects was the local firm that provided design and construction administrative services, while Bronze Oak out of Broken Arrow was the construction contractor.
Other existing accessibility programs and services at TUL:
- Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Program: Passengers who may need extra assistance while traveling can wear a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard. Wearing a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard is a discrete way to notify airport personnel that you may need additional time, patience or assistance. Lanyards are available in the airport lobby in room A-211 or by sending an e-mail to [email protected].
- TSA Cares: TSA has established a dedicated helpline to assist passengers with disabilities and medical conditions. Passengers can call the TSA Cares Helpline 72 hours before traveling to help plan for their trip at (855) 787-2227. TSA is happy to answer any questions or address any concerns regarding the security checkpoint.
- Service Animals Welcome: Service animals have always been welcome throughout the terminal building. A service animal relief area has been designated pre-security just outside of the rental car counters on the upper level and are now available post-security on each concourse as listed above.
- Parking options: Passengers who count on being able to park as close as possible to the terminal and are permitted to park in reserved accessible parking spots have several options at Tulsa International Airport. The airport also has a shuttle with a wheelchair lift for those who park in the Economy Lot. Passengers can let any shuttle driver know they need a wheelchair lift after they park, or they can call our parking operator at 918-838-5466 to make arrangements in advance.