YVR introduces neurodiversity training for travelers and employees

Vancouver International Airport is taking steps to reimagine travel for neurodiverse families.

As Autism Awareness Month drew to a close, YVR management launched a series of interactive training videos and neurodiverse-inclusion training for its employees.

YVR CEO Tamara Vrooman says the training just makes sense for travellers.

“Just like we train for safety and security each and every day here at YVR, we also need to train to help and support those who are neurodiverse and on the autism spectrum,” said Vrooman Tuesday, April 30.

Twenty-six training sessions have already been conducted with YVR staff and border service officers at CBSA.

B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin praised the interactive video initiative, which was part of a collaboration with the airport, the Pacific Autism Family Network, and AIDE Canada.

The video series takes potential passengers through a “curb-to-cloud” experience in an online course with interactive videos designed for neurodivergent individuals to help limit anxiety and increase preparedness.

“What if you had a chance to visit the airport and practice in advance, to go through all the steps ahead of time and even rehearse getting on the plane? Well, that is exactly what is happening here at YVR, thanks to this inspiring partnership,” said Austin.

Founder and director of the Pacific Autism Family Network, Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, says the training is crucial for making airport journeys more accessible.

“Travel interactions can be really challenging for our neurodiverse community. And for many, that actually means that travel stops, full stop, for the individual with neurodiversity and often for their entire family.”

As the mother of a four-year-old with autism, Folake Williams knows how challenging the airport experience can be. She told CityNews she’s pleased to see YVR taking steps in the right direction.

“Now that there’s these videos to prep them or prep myself, then both parties can understand what is happening,” said Williams. “So they know how to help on their end, and I know that there’s this help coming on my end; it’s not so daunting, and that would encourage me to take him on more trips as opposed to [saying] ‘Ugh, this is going to be a hassle, let’s just not do this.’”