Virgin Holidays will soon be offering autism-friendly vacation packages for families throughout the world. The airline has been in talks with founder and director of Autism Parent Empower, Jo-Ann D’Costa-Manuel, on initiatives to raise autism awareness and facilitate traveling for autism families.
The Independent reported these initiatives include “giving staff in selected locations special training and providing detailed information about what to expect so families and children can be as prepared as possible”. This vacation package would include airplane rides, hotel stays, and attraction visits. D’Costa hopes an “autism-friendly” icon will be developed and displayed on brochures of hotels and attractions to help autism families make a better choices when planning their vacations.
Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin empire, already offers individuals with disabilities the opportunity to go inside a training rig that simulates the process of checking in and flying. Virgin Airlines began this program for people with physical disabilities who were worried about how they would be able to move within the plane. The airline started realizing more and more of its passengers were also dealing with “hidden disabilities” like autism and anxiety, so the training rig was opened to any individual with a disability concerned about flying. To watch a video and learn more about the training rig, click here.
Similarly, The Arc has taken an initiative in offering autism families a chance to travel at ease by using simulation. Their program Wings for Autism “are airport rehearsals specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and people with other intellectual/developmental disabilities, their families and aviation professionals”. The program allows families the chance to practice walking around an airport, obtaining boarding passes, passing through security, and boarding the plane, without the stress. Not only do families learn, but also airport, airline, and security personnel. They are able interact with the families in a structured learning environment and implement proper service.
Wings for Autism’s next simulation event will be Saturday, April 1st, 2017 at Logan Airport in Boston. If you are interested in registering for the event, click here.