Airports' safe passage for people with hidden disabilities

Brisbane, Heathrow airports raise awareness of passengers with hidden disabilities

Latest in Travel
People with 'hidden disabilities' can wear a lanyard to alert Brisbane Airport staff.

People with 'hidden disabilities' can wear a lanyard to alert Brisbane Airport staff.


Navigating airports can be a stressful time for passengers with anxiety, dementia, autism or hearing loss.


FROM BUSY check-in queues to packed boarding gates, airports can be hectic and noisy for even the most seasoned traveller.

So imagine navigating your way through an airport if you live withanxiety, depression, dementia, autism or hearing loss.

This can be a daunting experience, from simply arriving at the departure lounge and trying to find your check-in desk to passing security and even grabbing a bite to eat before heading to your gate.

To this end Brisbane Airport has introduced a scheme for people with hidden disabilities that aren't immediately obvious to airport staff, to help make their airport experience less stressful.

Visitors can order lanyards to wear so they can discreetly alert staff they may need help.

YOU'RE COVERED: The canopy of umbrellas in Heathrow's Terminal 5.

YOU'RE COVERED: The canopy of umbrellas in Heathrow's Terminal 5.

The scheme is modelled on a program in the UK and so far 1200 staff have been trained to recognise the lanyard and provide assistance needed throughout the airport.

"For example: if you are feeling overwhelmed we can slow down the process, keep things quiet, offer assurance and be as accommodating as possible," a Brisbane Airport spokesperson said.

Travellers and carers who want a discreet way to let airport staff know they may need support through the airport process can order a pack which contains the special lanyard, a passenger information card and a Brisbane Airport Accessibility Journey Planner.

The airport was aslo named Australia's first dementia-friendly airport by Alzheimer's Australia with the launch of an airport guide for travellers with dementia.

It was also the first in the country to introduce dedicated assistance animal bathrooms. These toilets are fully wheelchair accessible and contain an artificial turf area, a wash down facility for the turf, a dispenser and bin for disposal of dog poo bags, a water bowl for the dogs, as well as a sink for people to wash their hands.

Meanwhile in London, a canopy of 300 brightly-coloured umberella has popped up in Heathrow's Terminal 5 to raise awareness of hidden disabilities including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.

Devised by ADHD Foundation, the Umbrella Project is in the terminal's arrival lounge and celebrates the gifts, talents and employability of people with neuro-developmental disorders.

The project name stems from the use of ADHD and autism as 'umbrella terms' for many neurological conditions and reframes them for children as unique 'super powers'.

Heathrow's director of customer relations and service, Liz Hegarty, said: "We're delighted to welcome the Umbrella Project to Heathrow, raising much needed awareness of hidden disabilities and providing a fantastic, thought-provoking visual experience for all our passengers this summer.

"We recognise that travelling can be a challenging experience for many people and are continually improving our assistance service, ensuring every single passenger feels at ease when they begin their journey with us."

The installation, in place until October, follows the introduction of initiatives including sunflower lanyards that allow passengers needing tailored help and support to discreetly identify themselves to Heathrow staff and the installation of a sensory room in Terminal 3, alongside a plan to deliver dedicated quiet areas across the airport.