Vancouver International Airport and Pacific Autism Family Network reimagine travel for neurodiverse families

Vancouver International Airport and Pacific Autism Family Network have unveiled two initiatives to support the neurodiverse community.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN) wrapped up April – known as autism acceptance month – by unveiling two key initiatives in support of the neurodiverse community. The first was the launch of a series of interactive travel training videos, created through a partnership with YVR, PAFN and AIDE Canada.

What is being done to support neurodiverse people?

The bustling and high-stress atmosphere of airports can be challenging for neurodiverse individuals. To address this concern, YVR, PAFN, and AIDE Canada combined expertise to develop a video series which simulates the travel experience from the curb to cloud. These on-demand videos enable individuals to familiarise themselves with various travel processes, empowering them to approach real travel situations with confidence.

“YVR is a diverse global hub, and we remain committed to meeting the highest standards of accessibility and inclusion,” said Tamara Vrooman, President and CEO at Vancouver International Airport. “A little bit of planning ahead can make all the difference to a travel journey. Through our partnership with PAFN and AIDE Canada, YVR is proud to offer a valuable resource to neurodiverse individuals and others, enabling anyone who may feel anxious about the experience to prepare for air travel with confidence.”

The three-part series, developed with the participation of key members of the airport ecosystem, covers important travel processes including check-in, security screening procedures, aircraft boarding, and clearing customs after an international trip. Designed to provide practical guidance, the interactive tool in the videos allows users to navigate typical airport scenarios, interact with personnel, and observe the outcomes of their choices, fostering self-assurance for real-life travel situations.

“We are delighted to support neurodiverse communities by introducing the wonder of travel and what they can expect through these interactive travel training videos. By seeing an Air Canada aircraft and staff in these videos, and together with our adoption and recognition of the hidden disabilities sunflower programme, we hope neurodiverse people and their families can develop the confidence to take a trip soon,” said Christianna Scott, Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Air Canada.

The videos, which feature neurodiverse actor Kayla Tellier are available on AIDE Canada’s website.

Promoting inclusive training

In addition to supporting the training video series, YVR is providing comprehensive neurodiverse inclusion training to its employees, from frontline workers such as guest experience and green coat volunteers, to staff in a range of areas, including fire and rescue personnel. These training programmes focus on best practices for communication and support to those in the neurodiverse community, ensuring a welcoming, safe, and supportive journey for all passengers. Invitations to the training sessions, delivered by Dr. Fakhri Shafai were extended to other organisations, and many have participated, including but not limited to airport assigned RCMP, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. CBP), and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) personnel.

“The Canada Border Services Agency welcomes thousands of travellers to Canada each day and we understand that crossing the border can present unique challenges for neurodiverse individuals,” said CBSA Director Linell Redmond, Vancouver International Airport. “We have an important role to play in helping remove existing barriers and appreciate the opportunity to have our border services officers take part in this training through YVR, PAFN and AIDE Canada.”

“CATSA endeavours to create a barrier-free security screening experience that is inclusive and respectful of all travellers,” said Jim Doucette, CATSA’s Director, Service Delivery. “Participating in this training allows screening officers to learn how to best support neurodiverse passengers through the screening process and we are grateful for this opportunity.”

PAFN Board Chair and Co-Founder Sergio Cocchia (O.B.C.) commended YVR President and CEO Tamara Vrooman for her leadership and support to impacted individuals and families. He also appreciated YVR’s ability to see the need to prepare for a travel experience from a different and innovative viewpoint. “Programmes are usually geared to the neurodiverse individual learning to adapt in our community. Families spend their lives educating their neurodiverse children on how to adapt to our community, and in these new training sessions we are helping the community adapt to neurodiverse individuals. It’s crucial for all airport partners to actively participate in fostering and furthering these forms of inclusivity.”

As of April 2024, 97% of YVR’s guest experience team has completed the neurodiverse inclusion training. Sessions are ongoing and have been integrated into YVR’s onboarding curriculum for new volunteers joining our green coat volunteer programme.

More Information about YVR’s accessibility plan is available at www.YVR.ca/accessibility

Go to Source...