There are supports out there to help us - we just don’t always know it !
There are codes that are familiar to those of us who use a wheelchair and fly. There are others though, that would be hugely beneficial if your travel agent or booking clerk can add to your booking. Once you arrive at the airport, just confirm at the booking desk that you have booked using the relevant codes.
WCHS - uses a wheelchair, can walk short distances
WCHR - uses a wheelchair, can climb stairs
WCHC - uses a wheelchair, requires assistance
BLND - visually impaired
DEAF - hearing impaired
BLND-DEAF - visually and hearing impaired
DPNA - intellectual or developmental disabilities
I had never heard of the DPNA code - here’s a link to a brilliant demonstration of its use - Airplanes and Autism
This originates from Heathrow, UK, and is being rolled out across other airports. Wearing a Sunflower lanyard discreetly alerts all airport staff that you have a hidden disability, without needing to explain all the time. It could be worn for autism, hearing loss, processing disorders and more. They can send you one free, anywhere in the world, if your travel takes you through Heathrow within the next 6 months. Click here for more info.
Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia, Canada also has a program in place to help staff and crew identify passengers with autism, who receive a special sticker on their boarding pass. Alternatively, contact any airports you will be using to see if they have a similar scheme.
A quick search on the first 2 pages of Google returned a Changing Places bathroom (or very similar) at airports across the world. I found one in Munich, Brisbane, Orlando, Cyprus, and 15 across 9 different UK airports. This was done using the very generic search term of ‘airports disability changing rooms’. I’m sure that with more specific search criteria relating to your stopovers and destination, you may well find more.
As with changing rooms, I also used a very generic search term of ‘airports sensory rooms’. The first 2 pages came up with results for Shannon Ireland, Atlanta, Gatwick, Birmingham, Houston and Alabama. Miami has also recently opened one. There are many more airports which offer ‘quiet rooms’, useful for all children (including Heathrow, among others)
This excerpt from the Chicago Tribunal highlights some stunning initiatives - as the article is now 2 years old, let’s hope that more of these ideas are now in effect.
“Some airports and airlines also offer families with travellers on the spectrum opportunities to become familiar with airport experiences that may be stressful. Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania, for example, offers a "Wings for All" program that allows children with autism and sensory processing disorder to experience a run-through of what it's like getting on a plane, getting ticketed and getting seated so that they'll know what to expect when it's time for a real trip. A similar program took place at Myrtle Beach earlier this year, and Shannon launched a customer care program last year, providing special caps and wristbands for travellers with autism and other special needs so staff can identify them and interact appropriately.”
Safe travels everyone