Today, Canucks Autism Network (CAN) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR) welcomed 175 individuals to the fifth annual YVR & CAN Autism Accessibility Tour. The tour took individuals and families living with autism through the entire pre-flight process, including checking-in, finding the gate, going through security and boarding the aircraft for a simulated take-off. For the first time, this year’s tour also took participants through the arrivals experience. Families had access to the typical two-step customs process at YVR which includes using a BorderXpress kiosk to answer questions and then talking to a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agent.
Due to anxiety and sensory sensitivities, individuals with autism can become overwhelmed by the airport environment and the lengthy and unpredictable experience. The simulated airport rehearsal helps to reduce barriers to air travel by preparing families living with autism for the whole pre-flight process, making the airport a less stressful and more predictable environment.
“We are thrilled to partner with YVR once again to increase autism accessibility at the airport,” said Stephanie Jull, VP of Programs, Training and Community Engagement. “Because of this tour, individuals and families living with autism can more confidently navigate the airport, opening up a world of air travel opportunities.”
CAN and YVR began their partnership in 2014 with the aim of decreasing anxiety associated with air travel and building confidence for future travel success. Since its launch, the annual YVR & CAN Autism Accessibility Tour has been delivered to over 400 individuals, many of whom have since travelled successfully.
“At YVR, one of our top priorities is providing a positive and accessible experience for everyone. We are proud to once again partner with CAN to host this year’s autism accessibility tour,” said Kim Halowski, Manager, Community Relations, Vancouver Airport Authority. “Beyond the tour and through our long-standing partnership with CAN, we have been able to introduce a number of accessible travel tools and resources to help families and individuals living with autism navigate the airport experience—another step towards our goal of removing barriers to air travel.”
The autism accessibility program includes helpful resources such as the YVR Resource Kit which features a step-by-step storybook, interactive checklist, airport map and tips for travel, and a video series that helps travellers with autism prepare for flight. YVR has also introduced the YVR Autism Access Sticker, a self-identification tool for individuals living with autism that can be placed on boarding passes. The sticker ensures an expedited airport process through screening and customs and better communicates the specific needs of passengers to airport employees.
Special thanks to Air Transat, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for their support of the program.
For more information about autism accessibility at YVR, please visit yvr.ca/autism.