Parent and carer support

Bristol Airport helps autistic passengers

special assistance for autistic people at bristol airport

Bristol Airport has worked with OCS Group, the special assistance provider at the Airport, and local Dementia, Autism and Alzheimer charities in developing a hidden disabilities assistance card in addition to the lanyard scheme. The card, which is the size of a business card, acts as a discreet sign to airport staff to identify passengers who may need additional support or assistance as they travel through the airport.

The card can be handed discreetly to airport staff along with the passenger’s boarding pass or passport. The special assistance card advises staff that a passenger may need more time to process information, help in avoiding crowded places or extra assistance in reading departure boards or flight information, for example.

The card also encourages airport staff to use clear language when giving instructions. Airport staff will also be aware that passengers carrying a card may need to remain with a family member or companion at all times.

Not all passengers with hidden disabilities require assistance through the airport, but for some passengers, experiencing challenges with Dementia or Autism, airports and other public locations can be very stressful places. After feedback from various local charities and organisations, Bristol Airport has extended the support available for passengers with hidden disabilities in addition to the lanyard initiative.

Introduced by OCS Group at Bristol and other UK airports, the team at Bristol developed the assistance card along with an information booklet to help passengers prepare for a journey and give additional guidance on their journey through the airport. A full training and awareness programme has been delivered to all airport colleagues in customer facing roles in preparation for the introduction of these new initiatives on 31 March 2017.

Colour booklet

In conjunction with the launch of the hidden disabilities special assistance card OCS Group has worked with Thumbs Up World Ltd to produce a small colour booklet containing useful information for passengers with hidden disabilities using Bristol Airport. The booklet is designed for passengers and their families and carers to use before and during a journey from the airport. It provides a clear guide on what to expect at the airport with photographs of each area including check-in, security, retail and catering outlets, boarding, arrivals and baggage reclaim.

The booklet also contains space for passengers to record their own specific needs or any questions they may have along with emergency medical and contact information. A video of the guide has been developed by Thumbs Up World UK and will be available on the Bristol Airport website as an additional resource for passengers.

Phil Holder, Bristol Airport, said: “We are delighted to work with OCS and listen to feedback from families and various charities in the development of the hidden disabilities special assistance card. For families it will remove and reduce some of the stress knowing that staff are aware and understand the challenges they may face. “The booklet will also be a great help to families and provides information in advance of their visit and allows the family to complete the booklet together not only before they visit, but during their time at the Airport also.”

Improving travel experience

Duncan Lowe of OCS Group said: “OCS Group is committed to working with disability groups to improve the travelling experience for disabled passengers and these new initiatives are designed specifically to help passengers with hidden disabilities travelling through Bristol Airport. The hidden disability cards and lanyards offer passengers options on how they wish to be assisted through the airport and allow a discreet visual reference to airport staff that this passenger may require a little help or extra time.”

“The introduction of our hidden disability booklets, in association with Thumbs Up World, offers a fun interactive distraction from some of the stresses of the journey and will allow parents, partners and carers prepare for their journey. It also allows the passenger to express their concerns in advance, which in turn can help our staff to assist in the most appropriate manner on the day.

“We hope that the introduction of these new initiatives will give confidence to passengers with hidden disabilities that they can travel through Bristol Airport with the support they need and shows OCS Group’s ongoing commitment to making Bristol Airport accessible for all.”

Enabling passengers

Catherine Seiderer, Thumbs Up World said: “We are so pleased to work closely with Bristol Airport and have the opportunity to support such positive and valuable change by enabling passengers with hidden disabilities to have a tool that will prepare them for their experience at the airport, reassure them and give them an opportunity to travel where they may have struggled previously.

“As a mum of a son with autism it is wonderful to see how Bristol Airport has made such a commitment to their special assistance process and how they value feedback and working together with charities and other relevant organisations. It makes us as parents feel that we and each of our children are being kept in mind and that positive change is possible with the right people working together. A great big thumbs up for future travel.”

The hidden disabilities assistance card or lanyard or booklet is available on request at the OCS special assistance desk in the main terminal prior to check-in.

Passengers or their families and carers travelling through Bristol Airport can request a booklet in advance from OCS by emailing brs-hiddendisability@ocs.co.uk providing their name, departure date and relevant flight information. Alternatively, the booklet is available on Bristol Airport’s website.

About the author

Luke Aylward

Luke Aylward

Luke is an Aspie copywriter and designer based in Leeds. He's the chairman of a local support group and enjoys providing accessible info around all things autism.

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