Airports are noisy, busy and exciting places! There is a lot going on, a lot to take in and to be honest, they’re a little overwhelming. This is a particularly hard environment for those who are managing ‘hidden disabilities’ such as anxiety, depression, autism, dyslexia, dementia, hearing loss etc. – conditions that aren’t immediately obvious to airport staff and crew.
Brisbane Airport Corporation (“BAC”) have launched an Australian-first ‘Hidden Disabilities’ program. The program aims to minimise stress for those travelling with a hidden disability.
So, How Does It Work?
The program gives people with a hidden disability the opportunity to:
- conduct a ‘dry run’ through the airport processes prior to the day of travel to familiarise themselves with the environment. Airport staff will guide them through each step;
- notify the airport ahead of their travel;
- wear a lanyard to discreetly let staff know that they may need a little extra help, guidance and time going through the check-in, security and customs processes;
- receive an airport information card to review prior to departure; and
- wait for their flights in quieter zones if that is preferable.
The program is not about singling people out, preferential treatment or jumping queues – it is about greater understanding, compassion and better communication. It elevates the level of support for someone with a hidden disability.
As Leonie Vandeven from BAC eloquently explains she “did not want their team to make assumptions about what assistance people needed. But we would be asking them where they would be more comfortable, what sort of support they would require, maybe taking them to a quiet place. It’s about helping them through the process, slowing down the process, reassure them that everything is OK.”
The program at BAC was instigated by Brisbane woman Jennene Greenall after returning from an overseas holiday with her family. She identified the need and contacted BAC to discuss. She has since been heavily involved in devising the program and training staff, with the help of an occupational therapist. The BAC program is modeled on the hugely successful program rolled out at Gatwick Airport, UK where in its first year of operation it handed out more than 8000 lanyards.
How To Apply For A Hidden Disabilities Lanyard
- Simply go to www.bne.com.au/hiddendisability website at least one week prior to travel;
- fill out the form; and
- BAC will send you a lanyard, a passenger information card and an accessibility journal planner.
The program has been welcomed with open arms and helps give families and adults a greater sense of calm and confidence when travelling. Since the launch in Brisbane, other Australian airports are looking to offer similar programs very shortly. It will be at its most beneficial when all airports are offering the same service for when people depart and arrive.
For more information on the Hidden Disabilities Program, please click here.