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A Day in the Life: Providing an accessible airport environment

May 27, 2024

Categories: Faces of YWG, At YWG

Introducing Julie Chapko, the dedicated Accessibility and Operations Support Specialist at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport. Her role, a first for YWG, is instrumental in our journey to become the most accessible airport in Canada. This ambitious goal is met with Chapko's unwavering dedication and close collaboration with the community, ensuring an exceptional, barrier-free passenger experience. 

"Once a day, I like to take a break from my desk and walk around the terminal," said Chapko, who is laser-focused on a passenger’s journey through the airport."It helps me to observe crowds, identify barriers and assist passengers."

Right now, YWG’s accessibility team is working on updating signage throughout the terminal to make it more accessible. They're also exploring ways of creating alternativeformats and learning about the best approach to inclusive signage.

"Is it a tactile map?" said Chapko."An audio component? We're looking for ways to innovate wayfinding in the airport."

As part of our commitmentto removing barriers and creating a welcoming environment for all, Winnipeg Airports Authorityestablished the mYWG Accessibility Committee to consult advocacy groups and individuals with lived experience.

"Whenever we have a new project, we get feedback from the committee to make sure what we are doing is as accessible as possible," said Chapko. "The feedback we've received has led to the implementation of impactful programs, such as the Sunflower Lanyard Program for people with non-visible disabilities and the Passenger Rehearsal Program."

Originally designed for the neurodiverse community, the Passenger Rehearsal Program has become a valuable resource for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with the travelling experience before their trip. Older people travelling alone for the first time and children nervous about their first flight have found comfort in this initiative.

Because she continuously monitorsnew technologyand innovative opportunities to better serve our passengers, Chapko and the accessibility team recently identified a gap for people who are hard of hearing, which led to a new project they're currently working on. Hearing loops, a type ofassistive technologythat works with hearing aids, use FM frequency technology toenableusers to converse freely with customer service employees from a comfortable distance. Chapko hopes to install them at the Information Booth and all check-in counters. 

"Because such a large part of my day is working at a desk developing accessibility plans and policies, anytime I get to help a passenger in person, it becomes a memorable experience," said Chapko."Everyone has something to share about their experience through the terminal—often, I'm learning from them, and they don't even know it."

To learn more about all the support services available at YWG, visit the Accessibility section of our website.