This Saturday, more than a hundred Richmond-area families will head to the Richmond International Airport thanks to a partnership with the Autism Society of Central Virginia (ASCV). They’ll be going through all of the steps up until take-off as part of an airport rehearsal program called Wings for Autism, specifically designed for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families.
“There’s clearly a demand for such transformative experiences, as this will be the largest event of its type ever hosted at the Airport,” says Perry J. Miller, A.A.E., I.A.P., president and CEO of the Capital Region Airport Commission.
The program gives individuals and families the chance to experience the process of taking a flight. They’ll get acquainted with the steps, sounds, and sensory signatures of a typical airplane trip.
“The families we serve were so thrilled about the opportunity we had a waitlist soon after we announced the partnership,” says ASCV Executive Director Ann Flippin. “This program could eliminate a number of barriers for all of them and open up opportunities to thrive and travel.”
On November 18, airport staff will greet ASCV members and walk them through the following activities:
- Check-in at the airline ticket counter to receive boarding passes
- Pass through the TSA security checkpoint
- Wait in the boarding area
- Board an aircraft (that does not take off)
- Enjoy a post-event reception
“Team RIC is dedicated to going above and beyond to help our customers have an exceptional experience,” says Miller.
Miller and his team said many collaborators are to thank for making Wings for Autism possible including Delta Air Lines, Delaware North, the Transportation Security Administration, as well as Richmond International Airport.
“We know experiences like this are not only important for the families we serve, but it also provides a valuable training opportunity for airports, airlines, TSA professionals and other personnel to learn how to better accommodate all passengers who fly,” says Flippin.