“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness,” according to Mark Twain. For people with autism and their families, however, travel can seem fatal to familiar, safe surroundings. Airlines, hotels, cruise lines, theme parks, museums and even one major movie theater chain are starting to understand this. And more of them realize the benefits of making travel friendlier for people with autism.
CNN Travel recently reported on companies and places offering services to help clients with autism enjoy travel as much as anyone filled with wanderlust. The article also touts the advantages of travel for people with autism. Jennifer Malia, an English professor at Norfolk State University in Virginia, states in the article: “No one expects you to be completely familiar with cultural norms or to speak perfectly in foreign languages when you’re abroad. This made it easier for me to communicate as an autistic woman.”
Several organizations offers tips and events on navigating airport lines and procedures, as well as the flight itself. Jet Blue and Autism Speaks collaborated to create Blue Horizons for Autism, The Arc hosts Wings for Autism events at various airports around the country, and TSA offers TSA Cares, which provides a TSA escort through security for people with disabilities. Many airlines, including Southwest, American and Delta, offer priority seating and other services for passengers with autism.
The articles goes on to list resorts and hotels particularly welcoming for guests with autism. Beaches resorts, for example, provide autism-friendly kids’ clubs. Accomable helps people with disabilities of all kinds find accessible places to stay around the globe. Royal Caribbean cruise lines created a program to train staff and adapt activities to create autism-friendly cruises.
Once at the location, activities can overwhelm even if the journey goes smoothly. Disney provides several services for guests with autism, including a disability pass for avoiding long waits. Some theme parks—Legoland Florida recently opened one—offer quiet rooms, where kids with autism can relax in a clam space without leaving the park. Several museums also provide programs specifically for visitors with autism and AMC Theaters shows sensory-friendly films.
This isn’t the first time big corporations reached out to the estimated one in 68 children with autism and their families or caregivers. More and more companies operate programs to recruit, interview and train prospective employees with autism. Major retailers and shopping mall owners institute quiet hours for shoppers with autism featuring dimmed store lights, soft or no music, and lower volume for announcements. Employees also get training on positive interactions with people with autism.
Do you know of any other companies with autism-friendly programs? Please share int he comment section below.
Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for the ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org.