Edinburgh Airport has become the first airport in Scotland to achieve an Autism Friendly Award. Administered by the National Autistic Society Scotland, the award recognises organisations that have taken steps to ensure autistic people and their families can access and enjoy their public spaces. It was introduced after the charity revealed that 66% of autistic people in Scotland feel socially isolated.
The busy nature of an airport can sometimes make the experience for passengers challenging and a number of measures have been introduced at Edinburgh Airport to help mitigate that. These include specialist training for staff to help passengers with additional needs, an Edinburgh Airport-specific Social Story – in the form of a child’s book – to help youngsters prepare for the journey and a pre-visit to the airport to familiarise with the sights and sounds of the airport environment. The families are given discreet lanyards and pin badges to identify those with hidden disabilities, so staff are aware of the need for particular support.
Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport, Gordon Dewar said: “Airports can be extremely busy places and that can be quite daunting for people with additional needs, especially if they rely on a routine which a place like an airport can upset.
“We’ve looked at that and considered where we could make simple but effective changes to make the journey through Edinburgh Airport as easy as possible for those with autism and other additional needs.”
Kim Gibbons regularly travels through Edinburgh Airport with her son, Ryan, who has autism. She commented: “Places like airports can cause Ryan distress due to the high number of people and different noises so we have always been wary of travelling, but the fantastic assistance we receive from the staff at Edinburgh Airport has helped make the situation easier.
“Knowing we have that support means we now travel more regularly as the staff know us very well and have created a good relationship with Ryan, which also helps his journey through the airport.”
Seven-year-old Ryan added: “I really like airports and aeroplanes so it’s really exciting when I come to the airport to go away, and the people who help us through the airport are very helpful and friendly.”
Jenny Paterson, director of the National Autistic Society Scotland said: “I am very impressed by the comprehensive approach the team at Edinburgh Airport has taken to improving access for autistic passengers.
“Visiting the airport can be a very stressful, and sometimes daunting experience for autistic people and their families – these changes will make a huge difference to their experience.
“The airport is very deserving of our Autism Friendly Award and has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring autistic visitors are supported and know what to expect when they transit though Scotland’s busiest airport.”