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Two Airports Launch New Navigation App for Families with Developmental Disabilities

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) — both Skytrax rated 4-star airports and leaders in accessibility — have just rolled out free technology aimed at enhancing the airport experience for children with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. The airports partnered with Infiniteach to introduce the Access Houston Airports mobile app to help families prepare for their trip.

With the app, families will find an array of tools to transition through all phases of the airport experience. From arriving to the airport, to departing the airport and everything in between, the app’s comprehensive approach aids in improving passenger comfort. “Houston Airports continues to embrace technology to go the extra mile to assist passengers of all abilities on their journey through our airports,” said Jesus Saenz, Houston Airports Chief Operating Officer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13% of the U.S. population has a purported “invisible” developmental disability, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. “This percentage is significant, and equates to 20,000 daily Houston Airport users,” said Tim Joniec, Houston Airports Managing Director of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) Coordination. Many families raising a child with developmental disabilities report struggling to engage in society and feel socially isolated. “Houston Airports is introducing this app to ease anxiety for these families and provide information and resources that will make their visit to the airport an engaging and meaningful experience,” Joniec said.

The app is embedded with research-based strategies proven to help individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Specific app features include:

  • explorer guides, short picture stories that describe each space in the airport;
  • schedule function, a visual checklist that can be customized;
  • communication icons, to assist those who are less verbal in talking or asking for help; and
  • caregiver supports, including terminal maps, tips and more to help in planning a visit to the airport.

The Access Houston Airports app is free to download, and available through the App Store and Google Play.

The initiative is a part of a goal to make Houston Airports more accessible for all. Other recent enhancements include:

  • conducting employee disability awareness training;
  • providing Aira technology free of charge at the airports for people who are blind/low vision;
  • providing service dog familiarization training to puppy raisers of prospective service dogs; and
  • continuing partnerships with Southwest and United Airlines on the annual Wings for All event, a program to familiarize individuals and their caregivers with the airport experience.

Governor Greg Abbott recently recognized the Houston Airport System for its work to ensure Texans and travelers with disabilities have the support they need.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all airports adopted this app? Express your interest to your state’s agencies, such as your Governor’s office and the State Aviation office.

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