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Travelling with Autism: Challenges and New Developments

Travelling with Autism: Challenges and New Developments
Author: Kiera Hammond
3 Commentries
Keywords: autism, disability, travel, support

Abstract: People with invisible disabilities such as Autism can often feel excluded when it comes to travelling and being a tourist, this paper talks about the challenges faced by people on the Autism Spectrum and what is in place to support them through travelling.

Everyone has the right and the desire to travel, to try new things or just relax and have fun whilst on their holidays. But this is unfortunately not the reality many people in the UK can have due to the effects of Autism with around 700,000 people being diagnosed with this disability. Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability affecting how a person communicates, socialises and relates to other people. This is a disability which comes in many forms so everyone who has autism is placed on the ‘Autism Spectrum’, some people with autism can have a very mild form of it but others can have severe autism which is not only hard for them but also for the people who surround them such as family and friends (Neo and Flaherty, 2018).

People with autism face challenges every day, starting with going to school and interacting with other children, up to adulthood when they can struggle to get a job or create and develop important relationships. Some of the things that can affect a person with Autism are changes to their normal schedules, loud or unusual sounds and even the different artificial lighting in places such as shopping centres or airports (Sedgley, Pritchard, Morgan and Hanna, 2017). Autistic people can be Hypersensitive or ‘Over sensitive’ to these or they can be Hypo-sensitive otherwise known as ‘Under sensitive’. Both can mean they struggle with being in new or different scenarios such as travelling, and these are challenges which need to be tackled by the tourism industry when developing the needs for Autistic people.

It is clear that things need to change within the tourism industry, however it can be difficult to implement policies in the industry as this particular topic is under researched. For positive developments to be made, more research needs to be conducted to create the best and most supportive actions for people affected by autism who are travelling. Developing new practices and introducing more information and infrastructure for those on the Autism Spectrum is an important step for the industry but many companies are hesitant due to the varying levels of autism. By investing a significant amount of money in these developments will they be used enough for the companies to warrant putting this money in (Neo and Flaherty, 2018).

In 2016, conversation surrounding hidden disabilities was picked up by the Civil Aviation Authority who introduced new guidelines to the airports in the UK. The CAA guidelines are trying to make travelling through the airport less stressful and disorientating for people with autism by providing quiet waiting areas and routes through the airport to reach the gates, they are doing this by bypassing the most busy and loud areas such as duty free. These guidelines set out important new policies for airports to follow to make it easier for people with autism and their families and friends to travel through airports. The policies include all staff having specific hidden disability awareness training, providing detailed information to people with autism and the people who are travelling with them, so they can know as much as possible before travelling as this is one of the many challenges people with Autism face, being unable to deal with change in routine or new places very well, these guidelines are trying to help support autistic people through these scenarios.

There are new companies being developed who cater specifically to people with hidden disabilities, they are trying to offer the same or similar products and experiences to people with autism and other disabilities as those without disabilities get to enjoy. An example of this is Sensory Traveller Holidays, this is a company which are breaking down barriers set out across the tourism industry to create equality amongst travellers. They are offering accessible holidays to all, providing elements from different types of expressive therapies including music, photography and drama-therapy, all of which are methods and therapies used by care givers and support centres to help people with autism. These experiences are offering not only tailor-made holidays with trained professionals but also, they are offering important respite to the family and friends of people with autism.

Families and friends are not to be forgotten when developing the tourism industry for people with disabilities as they often need the respite and relaxation that a holiday can bring, without the worry of how difficult it is going to be for the person they are supporting when there are not many provisions available to them (Buhalis, Darcy and Ambrose, 2012).

Buhalis, D., Darcy, S. and Ambrose, I. (2012). Best practice in accessible tourism. Bristol: Channel View Publications.0-403
Neo, W. and Flaherty, G. (2018). Autism Spectrum Disorder and International Travel. International Journal of Travel Medicine and Global Health, 7(1), pp.1-3
Sedgley, D., Pritchard, A., Morgan, N. and Hanna, P. (2017) Tourism and autism: Journeys of mixed emotions, Annals of Tourism Research, 66, 14-25
A commentary on the paper regarding the struggles in which people with Autism face in airports
Author: Jasmin Perreira
This paper on strand 1 was chosen because it is about social exclusion which was a topic that was explored in my own paper regarding older people. Therefore, commentary on this particular topic can be more in depth and can easily compared. This colleague’s paper involved the discussion of people with Autism and how they struggle to travel and go through the airline experience.

In my opinion, what the paper does really well, is the explanation of what Autism actually is and how it affects people around the world. It states that in the UK 700,000 people have Autism and that it affects people in different ways – ‘Autism Spectrum’. Simply, Autism affects how a person communicates, socialises and relates to other people (Neo and Flaherty, 2018). This information is then cleverly put into the context of airlines where the author highlights how providing quiet waiting areas, easy routes and bypassing duty free would be beneficial for people with autism who struggle with loud noises and bright lights. This really made me aware of the problems with airports, that I otherwise would not have thought about before reading this paper.

Secondly, this paper was also good in that it included a case study example which expressed how some companies are already trying to combat the struggles people with Autism face in airports. Sensory Traveller Holidays are trying to make holidays accessible for people with Autism. Case studies allow readers to relate the topic to real life to understand what is currently happening; this makes the paper an interesting read.

This paper was overall very informative and really explained fully the struggles that people with Autism have in regards to holidays. However, I believe that the paper had a few grammar mistakes and could have flowed better; making it easier to read. Furthermore, definitions could have been used to the authors advantage to describe tourism terms effectively. This would have given more background information to the topic, similar to a literature review. A term that could have been explained is social tourism which is a concept that aims to eradicate social exclusion and provide holiday opportunities for specific groups in society in order to improve their wellbeing (McCabe, 2011). Another suggestion would be comparing the UK policies and issues to another country that may be tackling the issue better. In my paper about social tourism for older people, social tourism was better achieved in Europe (Page and Connell, 2014) than in the UK. Therefore, this comparison might have been useful for the author to then provide suggestions to the UK of what they could be doing better in terms of Autism.

McCabe, S., L. Minnaert and A. Diekman (Eds) (2011) Social tourism in Europe: theory and practice Bristol, Multilingual Matters

Page, S. and Connell, J. (2014). Tourism: A Modern Synthesis. 4th ed. Hampshire: Cengage Learning EMEA.
A commentary on the paper about Autism and travel experiences
Author: Maria Dominguez Musso
I have chosen to comment on this paper because although the subject is different than the one I wrote on, it still revolves around inclusive tourism and questions the extent to which this industry discriminates or does not consider people with different needs.

Our world, as it is right now, has advanced a lot when it comes to preparing society for those who have some degree of disability, but there is no doubt that there is still a big number of things to do, especially when it comes to hidden disabilities such as Autism. Sadly, we as citizens are very often unprepared to deal with autistic people, and do not even consider that the person being in front of us could be dealing with a disability like this. Having to travel and being out of the comfort zone is already an overwhelming challenge for people with Autism, since, as the paper above says, they can be hypersensitive. The stress can be increased if people interacting with them do not know how to deal with these personalities, and this can happen in places like airports, restaurants, guided tours, museums, etc.

The CAA initiative on making airports less stressful for autistic people that the author of this paper commented seems to be promising. The fact that the authorities are considering this issue as something important is a big step in tourism and the initiative will hopefully be carried on by authorities of other countries.

Further, as the author commented, the company Sensory Traveller Holidays offers travel experiences that can be tailored to every kind of person and their friends and family and this is something that does not happen often but should.

I consider this paper to be very well explained and I think it is good to put a subject like this on the table to trigger further research.
Commentary paper on Travelling with Autism and the Challenges and New Developments
Author: Jade Walsh
I have chosen this paper to write my commentary on, due to my personal interest within the topic and it is linked to my topic of accessibility but this is paper was focused on travelling with Autism in the airports. I am most interest in this topic and strand one overall as it is something, I have conducted research in and I have not personally had any issues with accessibility while travelling or travelled with someone that faces autism.

The Arthur has a clear knowledge and understanding shown with good research and identifies the main points with travelling with autism and the challenges they face while travelling and in everyday life including going to school, interacting with other people. It also explains people affected with autism struggle with loud, or unusual noises and the artificial lights in places such as airports. It is also suggested that the area of travelling with a disability such as autism lacks in research which will mean airlines and the staff would not understand what people on the autistic spectrum require or the difficulties they face in everyday life and especially when travelling through an airport or unusual settings. (Daruwalla, 2014).

The Arthur also looks at authorities such as Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and explains what they are doing regarding hidden disabilities, and identifies that the CAA are introducing new guidelines to the airports in the UK. The CAA main aim, are to try and making travelling through the airport less stressful for people with autism. By providing quiet waiting areas, separate routes through the airports bypassing busy and loud areas such as security, and duty free. The paper also explains that the policies put in place by the CAA include staff training relating people having specific hidden disabilities, providing detailed information to individual with autism and the family/friends who are travelling with them. Ensuring that all the people travelling have a better understanding on what will happen during the travelling experience and they are able to explain what challenges might occur during while travelling.

Overall, this is a good paper as it explains what autism is, how many people autism affects (700,000) and the paper also explains the challenges people with autism may face. Which many people probably would not have known before the reading paper and I would have not known without conducting research and reading this paper. It also shows that airlines, airports and authorities are constantly trying to improve and training staff about hidden disabilities. A recommendation could be look at overseas airports or airlines for a comparison on how they deal with travellers on the autistic spectrum. This would have been informative and good as we could have seen if UK airports are the only ones improving and trying to improve travellers experience or if it was other airports across the globe.

Daruwalla, P., 2014. Annals of Tourism Research. Personal and Societal Attitudes to Disability, 1(1), pp. 1-39.