The Private Xavier Foundation and AENA, in collaboration with Vueling and the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi (URL) organized an Open Day at the airport in Barcelona on Saturday April 2, coinciding with World Autism Awareness Day, where 25 families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were able to experience a simulation of flying in an aircraft. The Open Day, which is part of the greater project Alas para el Autismo is carried out with the support of the Paideia Foundation, the Association Aprenem and IDAPP. (Images of the event available here).
According to a preliminary study by the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi (URL) for families with children with ASD, 84% of those surveyed said that the experience of air travel has been stressful or very stressful because the characteristics of children with ASD (sensory overload, poor ability to process stimuli and external information and communication difficulties). Although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2007) states that people with disabilities should exercise their right to enjoy leisure, sport and tourism on equal terms, 64% of families say they do not dare to catch a plane due to the child’s condition. Families of children with ASD demand new services tailored for tourism and this is a business opportunity for the sector.
The project aims to reduce barriers to tourism and leisure, and improve the overall tourism experience for families with children with ASD through anticipation of the arrival at the airport, the check-in process through step by security checks, boarding and stay on the plane (without take off). Access to leisure by people with ASD focuses on standardization and inclusion. The experience of performing a mock trip to help them manage the travel experience and awareness and staff training to facilitate their transit and boarding, becomes a key element to ensure their self-development. This is the first initiative that has been done in Spain, and the second in Europe.
The Open Day at the airport of Barcelona is part of the project Alas para el Autismo which aims at training and awareness in different areas of the tourism sector (airports, hotels, theme parks), and will be supported by academic research led by the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi (Ramon Llull University).
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