16:17 PM

TPA looks to enhance services for guests with a range of disabilities

Tampa International Airport has launched two new initiatives for passengers and guests with both physical limitations and "hidden disabilities" such as autism.

The new programs aim to make the airport experience more pleasant and comfortable for those who need extra assistance when traveling.

One of those is the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Program, which helps Guests Services, TSA and Tampa International Airport Police better identify and help those who have spectrum disorders or other disabilities that may not be immediately apparent. The program is well known in the UK and other European countries, and Seattle, Minneapolis and other U.S. city airports are using the lanyards as well.

The lanyards are free and available at the Guest Services information kiosk in the middle of the Main Terminal on Level 3, and any guests or passengers can request them. There are also TSA screening-friendly sunflower stickers available as well. Families or individuals with disabilities may also request special tours to help familiarize themselves with TPA ahead of their travels.

Passengers needing wheelchair assistance at TPA also now have a new option: an electric wheelchair service called Whill.

The service is free to passengers during the proof of concept that the Airport is piloting from now through Dec. 10.

Traditionally, if passengers need wheelchair assistance, they request assistance through the airline. The airline will then accommodate the passenger with a wheelchair and an employee to guide him or her to the gate.

Whill (pronounced "wheel") gives passengers with limited mobility independence and allows for more flexibility along their travels.

“We’re excited to try this service because we want to give our passengers as much control as possible,” said Daniel Glennon, Director of Terminal Operations and Guest Experience at TPA. “Whill gives our passengers a comfortable, seamless experience where they can guide themselves while having the capabilities they wouldn’t have with traditional wheelchair service.”

TPA currently has 15 Whill chairs for the pilot and has rented out more than 50 since the pilot began.

Guest Experience representatives from the Airport are working with Whill to provide access and assist passengers in using the service.

The pilot began in mid-November and will be available until Dec. 10 with the opportunity for extension by airlines or SkyCap companies if desired. Passengers who want to use this service can simply ask their airline agent during the check-in process at TPA.