London Gatwick opens sensory room for departing passengers

London Gatwick has become the first UK airport to open a sensory room for its passengers, offering a relaxing, private and interactive environment to calm people who may feel in busy and unfamiliar airport surroundings.

Located in the North Terminal, the new sensory space is designed for passengers with autism, dementia, cognitive impairment or other special needs to help them feel at ease before their flight. Passengers using the sensory room can transform the space from a calming and relaxing environment to a stimulating interactive space full of light and sound with the flick of a switch.

The ‘chill-out zone’ for those needing calm includes floor cushions, bean bags and digital display panels, which generate colourful visual wall features. The separate ‘interactive zone’ stimulates the senses through tactile panels, textures and a game to improve memory, motor skills and encourages learning. The free to use room is available only to departing passengers and their families or carers who can book a 45-minute session at the North Terminal’s special assistance desk after the security check.

Gatwick Airport’s Head of Terminal Operations, Andy Pule, said: ‘We recognise airports can be stressful environments for some passengers, which is why we are extremely proud to offer this new space for them to relax in and enjoy before their flight.

‘Gatwick is committed to providing passengers who have a disability of any kind with the support and services required to ensure their time at the airport is as comfortable as possible and this remains a key area of focus for the airport.’

Autism Ambassador for Gatwick Airport, Maria Cook, said: ‘I cannot thank the whole team involved in this project enough for making it a reality. Working closely with Gatwick I explained the vast benefits of having such a wonderful facility available and the positive impact it has for people with complex conditions and their families and they did not hesitate to create something very special indeed. It is the most amazing Sensory Room I have ever seen.’

Specific activities to experience in the room include: the Catherine Wheel Panel with colour and sound displays including firework effects; Abstract Tactile Panels featuring raised and recessed fluid shapes in contrasting textures; Colour Match Panel with classical music, mood lighting, and game to improve memory, colour recognition and motor skills; Sound to Light Showtime; Waterless Rainbow Tube with a colour wheel offering calming and stimulating effects; Interactive Giant Causeway which can activate colourful lights; Activity Board encouraging motor movement, coordination and sensory skills and Infinity and Beyond Panel offering visual and auditory effects using range of shapes, sounds, patterns and speeds.

Edinburgh Airport marks World Autism Awareness Day with new support package

Marking World Autism Awareness Day, Edinburgh Airport has launched a support package to help passengers with autism and other additional support needs travel through the airport effortlessly.

The first project of its kind in Scotland, Edinburgh Airport developed the new ‘Travelling with Additional Needs’ toolkit to help autistic passengers and their families inwith navigating their way through a busy airport. The package has been developed in association with Scottish Autism, the airport’s corporate charity partner for 2014, and disability equality group Wideaware.

The toolkit comprises a series of factsheets – easy step-by-step airport guide – focusing on different sections of the airport journey which may be particularly stressful. It will further be supported by hands-on initiatives including advance walk-throughs for passengers with autism, in a wheelchair, or even someone who may not have been in an airport before.

David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: ‘Our specially designed toolkit and the wider support package have been specifically designed for those passengers who may need a little bit of help or reassurance before they fly, whether that is information on where to find their check in desk or how to use a self-service machine.

‘We firmly believe that everyone who wants to fly can fly and we’re committed to making sure all of our passengers have the best experience possible. We have an amazing team here at Edinburgh Airport and we’ll continue to work to ensure our services are of the highest standard.’

Charlene Tait, Director of Development at Scottish Autism, said: ‘We know of many people living with autism who, along with their families, are disenfranchised from air travel because they simply cannot cope with the stress and trauma of an airport.

This new initiative with Edinburgh Airport is a great starting point in trying to change this situation. The toolkit and other support measures have the potential to really help people with autism and other support needs by making them more aware of what they can expect in an airport environment and help them prepare in advance.’

Edinburgh Airport is also working with airlines such as easyJet and British Airways to help facilitate bespoke courses for people with a fear of flying.