Brisbane Airport Supports Travelers with Invisible Disabilities

Many Australian airports offer assistance to people with disability, but Brisbane Airport’s new program will support travellers with hidden disabilities and other airports are soon to follow suite.

The Australian-first program, which has already been successfully implemented in the United Kingdom, will help people with hidden conditions and disabilities such as anxiety, autism or dementia feel less overwhelmed in the often chaotic airport environment.

The use of a lanyard will discreetly allow airport staff to provide extra support when it comes to offering a quieter check-in and simpler process when awaiting flights and boarding a plane.

Head of Media and Corporate Communications at Brisbane Airport Corporation, Leonie Vandeven says airport staff will ask travellers where they would be more comfortable and what sort of support they would require.

“It’s about helping them through the process, slowing down the process, reassure them that everything is OK.”

Brisbane Airport is continuing to tweak its program based on passenger and staff feedback since its soft- launch in November last year, and other Australian airports are looking at similar programs.

“We do hope to get a national program that’s consistent through all airports,” Ms Vandeven says.

To request a hidden disabilities information pack, including a lanyard, information card and Accessibility Journey Planner, simply fill out the form on the Brisbane Airport website one week before you travel.

Customer Experience Manager at Adelaide Airport, Alicia Mackay says the South Australian airport has also implemented a program that supports travellers with a hidden disability.

“Adelaide Airport aims to provide facilities that promote accessibility for all members of the community, including passengers and visitors with disabilities or special needs.

“We have engaged diversity and inclusion specialists A Spectrum Connected, the same consultants as Brisbane Airport, to implement a program that supports travellers with a hidden disability.

“We work closely with our airline partners to ensure everyone’s accessibility needs are met and continually upgrade our services to better reflect our customers,” she says.

The airport’s Guide for People Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Disability Access Facilitation Plan have been developed by Autism SA to assist travellers with autism and people who are unfamiliar with the airport process.

“The resource assists in providing prior notice of the processes and expectations of what happens on arrival at Adelaide Airport through visual aids and steps to follow,” Ms Mackay explains.

“Making our airport a space for all customers, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, is core to our customer promise to make the experience easy and connected with a focus on quality relationships.”

A spokesperson from the Melbourne Airport confirmed that Melbourne Airport will introduce a number of initiatives, in the second half of the year, aimed at simplifying and streamlining the traveller journey for passengers living with hidden disability.

“Some of the initiatives include lanyard identification for travellers, social stories, and information packs for both travellers, their families and carers.

“The airport looks forward to launching the program in the coming months,” the spokesperson says.

Melbourne Airport’s Disability Access Facilitation Plan is also available on the website which is updated as new facilities become available.

Chief Corporate Services Officer of Perth Airport Debra Blaskett says the safety, wellbeing and comfort of all our passengers is a priority for Perth Airport.

“We are working hard to improve access for people of all abilities to ensure we deliver great service and a world-class travel experience for everyone visiting the airport.

She says Perth Airport’s Access and Inclusion Working Group convenes twice a year to advise the airport on the barriers that people with disabilities experience while travelling and to help identify opportunities for positive change.

“We also work in partnership with the Autism Association of WA and Virgin Australia to deliver tours to simulate the airport experience from check-in, security screening to boarding the aircraft for children with autism.

“Through this collaboration, we hope to reduce the stress of travel and make going on holiday on a plane a reality for as many WA families as possible.

Ms Blaskett says a targeted hidden disabilities initiative is in the works.

“We recognise that not all disabilities are physical or immediately apparent and we are actively investigating the implementation of an invisible (‘hidden’) disabilities facilitation program.”

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