Autism Aviators Mock Travel Day Aims to Remove Barriers to Travel

For 20-year-old Jacob Thibault of Dartmouth, NS, travelling outside Canada has been a life-long dream. As a Nova Scotia Community College student and avid YouTuber, Jacob loves new experiences and adventures.

Now, with his college graduation just around the corner, Jacob’s dream of travelling is about to come true. His mother, Erin, has planned a special graduation trip where the two of them will visit Santa Monica Pier in California.

Having autism makes things like travelling different for me,” said Jacob. “I don’t like when there’s a lot of things happening at once. I hope it’s not too busy and not too noisy. I am nervous about security screening and the body scanner. Even though I am nervous about flying, I’m so happy that I get to go on my trip.”

Today, Jacob participated in the second Autism Aviators mock travel day at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, organized by Autism Nova Scotia and Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA). The event gives individuals on the Autism Spectrum who plan to travel by air a chance to experience airport processes first-hand, including check-in, security screening, and the departures area.

“Supporting Jacob with his travel needs is what Autism Aviators is all about,” said Cynthia Carroll, Executive Director of Autism Nova Scotia. “While airports can be unpredictable and overwhelming, this partnership helps to reduce the stress around travelling and opens up air travel for autistic individuals and their loved ones.”

Kelly Martin, HIAA’s Customer Relations Manager, agreed and said one of the top priorities at Halifax Stanfield is to provide a positive and accessible travel experience to all passengers.

“We’re so proud of our continued partnership with Autism Nova Scotia, which includes this event today and the delivery of a number of other accessibility travel tools and resources, to help individuals with autism and their families navigate the airport experience,” added Martin. “This is just one of the many ways we work in conjunction with our airline partners and government agencies towards removing barriers to air travel.”

For Jacob, his future travel plans are now a little closer to becoming a reality. When he and his mom go to California, he hopes to go to Legoland and Disneyland. He also looks forward to playing PokemonGo on Santa Monica Pier. “I am really excited to go! My favourite YouTuber, Mystic 7, inspired me to try and challenge myself to do something new. Travelling far away was my challenge, and now I get to leave the country to try this new adventure!”

The Autism Aviators mock travel day is offered biennially. This year, 21 Aviators took part in the event. The program also includes resource material available online throughout the year. For more information, visit www.autismnovascotia.ca/autism-aviators.