Flying with a stoma: sunflowers in the air
Sunday, September 30, 2018
John Walsh covers some of the work Stomawise has been doing to make flying a breeze for people with a stoma
At Stomawise, part of our mission is to reach out to all kinds of professional organisations and help them make their service friendlier for ostomates. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which sets the rules for aeroplane travel across the UK, has appointed Stomawise as an advisory partner for hidden disabilities.
Together, we have had great success across UK airports. We have seen these airports make the changes necessary to qualify for the Stomawise Ostomy-Friendly Airport Award, all with the aim of improving the overall experience of air travellers with a stoma, across the UK. To qualify for the award, an airport needs to meet certain standards.
Disabled toilet facilities need to be accessible, plentiful and fit for purpose, and these should be complemented by dedicated disabled changing areas with clean floors. Toilets and changing areas should have a clean, flat work surface to make emergency pouch changes easy and hygienic. To let people know that the facility is ostomy-friendly, there should be an additional symbol on the door. The airport should also provide quiet areas for people to sit, relax and escape from an otherwise stressful environment.
The CAA and Stomawise have made a considerable commitment to train security staff in ostomy awareness, including how to recognise a stoma and how best to treat an ostomate in a security situation.
Stomawise Travel Certificates, endorsed by a GP, are now available. These can be used to inform staff about your specific needs and condition, and they permit a passenger to bring two separate clear bags for liquids through security. One of these can be for conventional cosmetics and hygiene products, while the second is exclusively used to transport medical items, such as adhesive remover and barrier film.
Airport staff are now widely trained to recognise the sunflower symbol and know it means that the wearer has an unseen disability. They are then able to keep a traveller’s needs in mind and fast-track him or her and one responsible person through security (although any additional companions will have to queue as per usual). The sunflower symbol is available from Stomawise on unobtrusive new 4 cm stickers, which can be stuck to a travel case or piece of clothing. This system was adapted and improved from a lanyard system, originally used to help children with autism.
Ostomates feeling a little unsure about travelling can join one of our airport tours, where we take small groups of ostomates through airside security to see what it’s like and get used to the experience before they travel. Look out for events on the Stomawise website (www.stomawise.co.uk) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/stomawise).
At the June 2018 British-Irish Airports EXPO in London, the Stomawise team gave a ground-breaking presentation on how to complement the changes made to existing pathways for the Ostomy Friendly Airport Award, including further ideas for how this scheme could be improved. It was the first time that advocates for hidden disabilities had the ear of representatives from every airport in the UK and all the airlines that fly from them. We look forward to reporting back soon with more news of how we’re helping make travel smoother for the ostomy community.
John Walsh is the founder of the ostomy charity StomaWise
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