When I first read about Asiana Airlines new Hansarang Lounge — reserved for disabled customers at Seoul’s Inchon Airport — I was lukewarm to the idea. To be honest it just reeked of segregation, something that the disabled community in the US fought long and hard to eliminate. But then I looked at it from another perspective.
Perhaps, I mused, it could be the beginning of integration.
I know that’s a strange statement coming from me, so I invite you to follow my thought process here. In the olden days — and I’m really dating myself — US airlines used to take wheelchair-users to special rooms or holding areas to wait for their flights. Well, that all ended after the disability rights movement got vocal about it, and the Department of Transportation inserted a clause in the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibiting such practices. And that was back in 1982 (the ACAA actually preceded the ADA) at the very beginning of our access evolution.
And we’ve gone forward from there.
So perhaps Asiana could be following this same path. According to the powers that be, they created this lounge in order to minimize the inconvenience to disabled passengers. OK, I would have preferred them to upgrade their existing facilities to include new access features, but that’s just not what they did.
My point is, they noticed the need and they did something about it. According to Asiana, the number of wheelchair-users at Inchon Airport is increasing every year, topping out at 47,000 passengers in 2010. It’s expected that the new lounge, which was built with input from disability groups, will accommodate 70 Asiana passenger per day.
And the next time they upgrade things, perhaps they will go the inclusive route and include access features into the plan. But I guess this is a good start for now.
The Hansarang Lounge is located near the Asiana check-in counter on the third floor at Inchon Airport. Passengers can check-in at a lowered check-in counter and enjoy DVDs and video games while they wait for flights. Light snacks and drinks will also be available. So, if you’re in the area, check it out.
In the end I think it is a giant step toward inclusion.