Kelowna International Airport is celebrating the success of its third annual Accessibility Tour for individuals with autism and their families.
More than 70 individuals from 22 families attended the tour, hosted in partnership with the Canucks Autism Network on Sunday, Jan. 26.
The tour offered families the opportunity to walk through the entire pre-flight process, from check-in to boarding, giving more families the freedom to fly.
YLW airport director Sam Samaddar says the best part of the day was watching the reactions of the parents.
“We’ve seen families come with their children with a lot of apprehension. and at the end of the process as they go through the check-in process, they go through security, board an airplane… to see those smiling faces for both parents as well as children as they come off the airplane and say “we can do this” – that’s really a huge reward for all of us here at the airport.
“At the end of it the goal is that they’ll actually book a flight somewhere and they’ll be able to travel to Disneyland or see family elsewhere in the country. That’s really what this is all about.”
YLW has worked with Vancouver International Airport since 2014, where the program was initially developed.
Local resident and father Brandon says his four-year-old son Alaric had never flown before or been in an airport.
The most exciting aspect of the day was getting Alaric with other kids, says Brandon, and going through the process of entering a confined space on an airplane, or going through security which can be “kind of invasive to a lot of kids that don’t normally have to go through that.”
“I do fly quite a bit for work so he does see me go in the airplane, so it’s nice for them to get to see what I do and what I go through.”
Families also received resource packs including tools like an activity storybook, a step-by-step checklist, and airport map.
The packs are available for departing travellers any time at the YLW information kiosk.
For more information about YLW’s autism accessibility resources, visit ylw.kelowna.ca/autism.