Sometimes, inclusion takes extra effort on our part, however that energy usually pays off in a big way. Last weekend, we partnered with Alaska Airlines, The Port of Seattle, and the TSA for our second Wings for Autism event at SeaTac Airport. We made progress together as a community to assure that families raising a child with autism can travel by air more easily.
More than 40 families and 50 individuals on the autism spectrum were able to participate in this unique travel training experience. Before families gathered, we provided three educational programs for the airport and airline personnel and answered many questions they had about autism. It was a joy to hear that their questions often sounded like “what else can I do to include people?” These travel professionals want to be more inclusive. They are genuinely eager for information, and they seek guidance on how they can change themselves. Everyone who attended a training received one of these pins, so look for airport personnel wearing this pin the next time you to to the airport.
We have found that the personnel at Alaska Airlines, The Port of Seattle, and The TSA (don’t be too surprised!) see themselves as helpers – helping everyone to make the travel experience positive and safe for everyone. I know that The TSA usually gets a bad rap because of their security role (we do want to stay safe after all), but their commitment to this program truly deserves extra applause. One of the TSA officers told us that they offer a program where a family or individuals with accommodation needs can call ahead to ask for assistance from the TSA through the entire process…. cool! Check out the TSA Cares website at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/travelers-disabilities-and-medical-conditions for more information.
Additionally, Alaska Airlines posts our “social story” on their website (http://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/accessible-services/specialservices-developmental.aspx) to help families to prepare their child for the airport and all the transitions, AND you can call them and ask for additional assistance as well. The personnel repeatedly told us to just let them know either ahead of time or at the airport what they can do to make your travel easier.
This was cool, too! Local NPR station KUOW sent report Ruby de Luna to spend the day with us at the airport. Please check out the story to hear about the impact the Wings for Autism program is having to improve inclusion at SeaTac Airport. http://kuow.org/post/sea-tac-kids-autism-take-flight
Inclusion is important to us, and we want to be sure you are included. So please, consider joining us on our next Wings for Autism trip in 2015! (Registration should open in late December.) We are committed to making life better for everyone by working with the greater community to help them become more inclusive. As I’ve said time and time again – what we want for ourselves, we want for everybody. When it comes to travel, we want individuals with I/DD and their families to have more choices and opportunities to enjoy all that our vibrant and diverse world has to offer.