San Jose airport gets funding for disability upgrades
The Mineta San Jose International Airport is pictured in this file photo.

Traversing San Jose’s airport will get easier for people with disabilities thanks to future accessibility upgrades.

The Federal Aviation Administration is allocating $10 million toward improving accessibility at Mineta San Jose International Airport, Congressmember Zoe Lofgren said in a statement last week. The funding is part of a bipartisan infrastructure package providing $25 billion in total to airports over five years, of which $1.5 billion will likely go to California airports.

“Americans with disabilities should be able to travel and access airport amenities fully and equally,” Lofgren said. “I supported the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to upgrade our infrastructure in California and nationwide. These funds will help improve Mineta San Jose International Airport and ensure it is accessible to everyone in our community.”

A 2018 study conducted by Jensen Hughes, an outside firm hired by the San Jose airport, found 1,760 accessibility issues.  Though the airport is involved in a larger accessibility overhaul that includes exterior improvements, the federal funds will support work inside the two terminals. Potential changes include lowering flight information display screens to be more visible to people with limited vision, adding low railings for travelers who navigate spaces with a cane and adjusting ramp slopes. Work is scheduled to begin later this year.

Representatives with the San Jose Peace & Justice Center, Disability Rights California, Parents Helping Parents and the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center did not respond to requests for comment.

Airport spokesperson Scott Wintner told San José Spotlight the proposed changes are mostly small adjustments to bring facilities up to code, but will have a major impact.

“If the slope of a surface is a degree or two off, people who have full mobility might not notice. But for someone in a wheelchair, it might make a big difference,” he said.

Director of Aviation John Aitken thanked Lofgren in a statement for her advocacy and support of the airport.

“This grant will support improvements that are core to our mission of making travel through Mineta San Jose International Airport easy and efficient for all travelers,” Aitken said.

This is the most recent effort to address accessibility at the airport. In December 2020, SJC began its Sunflower Lanyard initiative, which allows travelers to subtly indicate to airport workers that they have a disability. In March of this year, it briefly piloted the use of autonomous wheelchairs, though officials have not yet decided whether to pursue this as a long-term option.

“As an airport, one of our unique features is that we’re easy to get in and out of,” Wintner said. “We want that to be true not just for people who enjoy being able to park close to the terminal, or have a short walk to the gate, but also for all people—regardless of accessibility challenges they may face.”

Contact Jack Delaney at [email protected]

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