Life Style

The sweetest airport also wants to be the most accessible

When it comes to great airport amenities, Indiana’s Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) excels. For about 25 years now, volunteers have welcomed passengers to Indiana with bright smiles and free, fresh-baked cookies.

When there are no volunteers on duty, a self-serve cookie kiosk will be set up so no visitor has to go without a welcome home snack.

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“We are a proud member of the Fort Wayne community and want to be a good neighbor to the airport,” said David Richhart, director of national accounts for Ellison. “We know people love and expect free cookies when they get off the plane here. And we won’t allow a cookie-free airport.”

This passenger-first approach extends to the station renovation and expansion project underway at FWA.

Beyond cookies and curb cuts

Of course the cookies are still there. They came from Ellison, a wholesale bakery across from the airport. For years, the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce has purchased cookies wholesale and labeled the packages with the airport’s name. Not long after the airport handed out its 3 millionth cookie, the bakery offered to provide it for free.

Ellison Bakery currently sends out more than 7,000 1-ounce packages of assorted cookies each month.


In addition to offering sweet treats, the airport is determined to make its updated terminal as accessible and inclusive as possible because, according to Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOne in four adults in the United States has some form of disability.

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Like many airports, FWA already has a range of accessible features, such as sensory rooms and family restrooms. In addition, it Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program signals to airport and airline staff that the traveler may need extra care, patience, and support.

The airport is adding and upgrading an extensive list of other features thanks to federal grants and funding as well as architecture and construction firm Mead & Hunt. Many local and regional groups representing people with disabilities contributed ideas to the improvements.

Below are just a few universal design features that technically fall under the “accessibility” label but can be quite useful to all travelers.

Curb roll

Most of us are familiar with curb cuts – ramp-like features that cut into the sidewalk so that wheelchair users can move more easily. They also make life easier for walkers, cyclists, children, stroller pushers and anyone rolling a suitcase.

FWA has expanded the concept of curb cutting so that the entire curb is a “rolled curb”. This makes loading and unloading passengers using wheelchairs easier. It also means no one has to lift suitcases, strollers or any heavy objects from the curb to the sidewalk.

Low profile luggage scale

At the ticketing lobby, the baggage scale at the check-in counter is just an inch off the floor. This thoughtful and accessible design feature ensures that no one, especially those with upper body limitations, has to lift heavy luggage.


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Lounge style seating

Bench-like seating in the ticketing lobby and outside the gate isn’t just for looking good. It was chosen because it does not have handrails at either end or in the middle.


The lack of armrests makes the seat more comfortable for larger people, those who want (or need) to sit close to others, and passengers with mobility issues who may need help sitting down, stand up or move from a wheelchair.

Route finder

Have you ever gotten lost at the airport or had trouble finding your gate number?

That won’t happen at FWA.


There aren’t many gates anyway, but regardless, all the signs are brightly colored to make it easy for people to find their way through FWA. The number of gates is noticeably large and the terrazzo floor has a contrasting pattern that flows in the direction of travel.

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For visitors with poor or no vision, there is also a tactile cane trail with ribbed tiles set on terrazzo; it runs through the entire terminal building, from the check-in counter through the security checkpoint and to the gates.

Reasons for more accessible features

FWA has upgraded and/or added glass jet bridges in its new terminal. It also has a family restroom with adult diaper changing table, hearing aid system, mothers room, height-adjustable countertop with electrical outlets, animal support area and play area children play.


It’s all part of the airport’s goal “to be the best front door possible for the Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana communities,” airport spokeswoman Katie Robinson said. “We have worked with local agencies to go beyond what is necessary and compliant to create an environment that alleviates some of the stress of travel for people with different abilities.”

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