Local blind man to thank for improved disability services at Will Rogers World Airport

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Bob Allen spends his retirement traveling often with his seeing eye dog Shirley.

“Lots of kids around so we go and see them and reunions,” Bob Allen said.

He travels by himself a lot, which wasn`t a huge concern until about three years ago.

“They took away the curbside check-in and that`s where I would ask for assistance to get from the curbside to the counter,” Allen said.

A big issue for Bob who has been blind the majority of his life.

So he called around for help.

“I called the airline, and I asked them ‘what do I do?’ and they said I don`t know. We don`t do that,”

He says he also called TSA, Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the airport, but after two years with no resolution, he called the Oklahoma Disabilities law office.

“We initially talked with the city attorney and then got an invitation to meet with the head of the airport,” Joy Turner with the Oklahoma Disabilities Law Office said.

Another big issue Bob had was navigating the airport`s website with his reader.

As soon as airport officials saw that at their meeting, they acted quickly.

“We brought everybody together – the airlines, the skycaps – and started understanding where some of the failures were,” Carney said.

That was in December. Since then, the airport has improved their website for those experiencing blindness and added training to employees like security guards out by the curb.

As a result, American Airlines also reinstituted their curbside service.

And the rental area now has two added staff members who can help drive those that need it.

“He kind of started a very positive movement at the airport I think,” Carney said.

“We all have some issues and most people aren`t aware of those issues but that`s the reality of it,” Allen said.

“The embraced it. They`re an advocate of all of this stuff now,” Allen said.

So those with a disability can travel more independently again.

The airport will soon roll out an app that will allow employees to communicate better to those who are hearing impaired or speak another language.

The expansion will also include a new area for those with service animals.

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