Gatwick Becomes First ‘Autism-Friendly’ Airport

gatwick2Last week, without too much fanfare, Gatwick Airport became the U.K.’s first designated “Autism Friendly” airport. The National Autistic Society is responsible for the presentation of the “Autism Friendly” award to restaurants, businesses, shopping centers, and more. Gatwick received the designation from the NAS, “in recognition of the airport’s commitment to becoming an accessible and friendly environment for autistic passengers.”

In order to earn the label, “Autism Friendly,” Gatwick had to meet a range of criteria that would benefit passengers with autism, along with their families and caregivers. This includes:

  • Providing clear and accessible information about the airport to autistic passengers;
  • Ensuring assistance is available for journey planning and preparation;
  • Training staff so that they’re better equipped to properly assist autistic passengers;
  • Introducing “Autism Champions,” who are trained to further educate and train airport employees, and to provide “enhanced assistance” to passengers who need it;
  • Rolling out initiatives such as the hidden disability lanyard program.

The hidden disability lanyard was introduced this past May, and is an option available for any passenger with hidden challenges, including autism, Alzheimer’s, hearing impairment, and more. While wearing the lanyard is voluntary, those who do discreetly alert airport staff that they may (quoting from Gatwick’s press release):

  • Need more time to process information or more time to prepare themselves at security;
  • Need to remain with family at all times;
  • May react to sensory overload (i.e., be surrounded by too much information);
  • Need staff to use clear verbal language as it may be difficult to understand facial expressions and/or body language;
  • Need staff to be visual with instructions and use closed questions to assist passengers effectively through the airport;
  • Benefit from a more comprehensive briefing on what to expect as they travel through the airport.

As anybody who has travelled with a child with autism likely knows, it’s especially hard when you take a child out of their recognized routine and familiar environment and expose them to the chaos and unpredictability of an airport. Initiatives like this one and Myrtle Beach’s “sensory-friendly quiet room,” go a long way in making it easier for passengers and their families to travel. We look forward to hearing about more airports earning the “Autism Friendly” designation.

Rachel L. MacAulay

Founder at Challa & Haggis
Still learning that there’s no such thing as perfection in parenting, or in life, though I don’t stop trying. Avid reader; lapsed wanderer; reformed cynic. I believe every day should be filled with children’s laughter.

Related Posts

Woodstock Chimes Autism Story Garry Kvistad, founder and owner of Woodstock Chimes, has won a GRAMMY® Award, played music with The Temptations and started an international company ...
2017 NFL Pro Bowl to Be Autism-Friendly This Sunday, the NFL’s Pro Bowl will take place in Orlando, Florida. As the location of Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and more, Orlando i...
This Company Went Above and Beyond to Help an Auti... Marc Carter's 14 year-old son, Ben, has severe autism. Ever since he was two, Ben has insisted on drinking out of the same sippy cup. He simply wo...
This UPS Man Makes Very Special Deliveries Do you know that giddy feeling that you get when the UPS man drops a package off at your door? Even if you know exactly what’s in it, it can still fee...
Myrtle Beach Airport Opens Sensory-Friendly ‘... Back in the beginning of 2016, the town of Surfside Beach, South Carolina, made news when it became the first “autism-friendly” travel destination in ...
Purse Designed by Student With Autism Becomes Inte... Even if you don’t care about the world of fashion or keep a scorecard on the various diplomats who visit the White House, chances are you’ll still be ...
Apple Store Field Trips: Apples, Smiles, and Super... As an Apple Distinguished Educator and the head of Instructional Technology at Wildwood School in New York State—a comprehensive educational progr...
Moms Who Inspire Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate your Mom. It’s also a day to recognize other Moms. We started this site six years ago, and during that time, we hav...
What It’s Like to Have a Brother with Autism This video is honest, heartwarming and amazing. By far and away, this very well could be the best 6 minutes of your day. Describing the video, Spencer...
INADEQUATE – A Comic by Maeril This beautiful work of art was introduced to us today and we can not stop reading it. Produced by Maeril, a freelance art director & illustrator, ...
Parents Make a Mini Blockbuster Store for Their Au... Blockbuster declared bankruptcy back in 2010 and even though DISH Network bought the last stores in 2011, most of us just assumed that all Blockbuster...
Julia, Sesame Street’s New Autistic Characte... The newly introduced -- and already beloved -- Sesame Street character, Julia, will make her debut "live" appearance this Saturday, April 22, at Sesam...