Miami International Airport (IATA: MIA) has hosted its largest MIAair (Airport Instruction and Readiness) tour to date for 11 families with special needs children, just ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and the start of National Autism Awareness Month.
Families who attended the tour practised entering the airport, checking in and receiving boarding passes, going through a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint, and boarding an aircraft. At the end of the tour, children receive a MIAair certificate of completion and travel resource materials. Tehe airport says its MIAair programme also simultaneously provides a learning experience for airport, airline and TSA workers, in how to better serve travellers with disabilities.
Since its launch at the end of 2015, MIAair has graduated more than 30 special needs travellers. In developing the programme, organisers have found that many families altogether avoid air travel out of fear that the airport experience would add emotional distress or disruptions to their plans.
“The goal of the MIAair programme is for everyone to experience the magic and wonder of flight, regardless of their disability,” said Miami-Dade Aviation Director Lester Sola. “Congratulations to our newest graduates and their families, and we look forward to welcoming many more.”
Developed in partnership with the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) and the Ear Institute at UHealth, the MIAair “dress rehearsals” allow special needs travellers and their family members the opportunity to walk through an airport travel experience from start to finish in a safe and controlled environment.