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Removing barriers to travel and making airports more inclusive

6 June 2023

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Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is excited to be partnering with the Australian Airports Association (AAA) to launch a Hidden Disability Awareness Training Course to help remove barriers to travel and make airports more inclusive for all. Aspect’s Autism Friendly team, which consists of both Autistic and non-Autistic staff, co-developed the Hidden Disability training module as part of a comprehensive set of Hidden Disability guidelines available for all Australian Airports.

The AAA is the national voice for airports, representing the interests of more than 340 airports and aerodromes across Australia. It also represents over 150 corporate members supplying products and services to airports and the wide aviation industry.

With an estimated 4.3 million passengers* moving through airports on a monthly basis, airports can be stressful and anxious places, especially when you are a new flyer or new to an airport and are unsure of what to expect. Large crowds, long queues, loud noises and unfamiliar procedures can be overwhelming for anyone. It can be even more challenging when you or your travel companion have a disability that is not immediately obvious to airport staff – a hidden disability.

Busy airport banner

I do a lot of pre-planning and googling before I visit an airport to help me prepare and pack accordingly. Being able to easily locate accessibility resources such as a sensory map on an organisation's website goes a long way in making the journey more accessible and pleasant” said Rebecca Street, Project Coordinator for the Sunflowers in Sydney Project.

Aspect has been working alongside Bayley House to implement the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme. Wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard discreetly indicates to others that the wearer (or support person with them) has a hidden disability. It lets them know that they may need additional help or simply more time.

This work with AAA is part of a broader vision to “makes Australia autism friendly”. The team have been working with partners such as NSW Transport, Yarra trams, Stockland Malls and others to adopt similar guidelines and implement autism friendly strategies to provide connectivity and consistency of travel across the country for people with hidden disabilities.

This is an important initiative to help ensure people with a hidden disability have the opportunity and confidence to embark on and manage their own airport journey. Airports are always evolving and the needs and expectations of airport customers are constantly changing and airports are committed to working together to deliver inclusive environments to meet the expectations of all customers” AAA Chief Executive Officer, James Goodwin said.

Multiple stakeholders, including Australian Government agencies and airlines manage the overall passenger experience, an airport-wide collaboration to reduce barriers to travel supports consistent experiences, making this training valuable for all parts of the aviation and tourism sectors.” he added.

Aspect CEO, Jacqui Borland said “The potential impact of this training program is massive, with hundreds of airport staff and even greater numbers of customers benefitting. We are encouraging all airports and customer-facing aviation staff to take up the training module. We’re proud that this training is co-designed by our Autistic staff and based on the extensive experience of Aspect Autism Friendly working with Australian airports

The Hidden Disability Awareness Training Course is available online via the AAA’s website – https://airports.asn.au/education

* Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics February 2023

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