Monday, October 2, 2017

Families with Disabilities Practice Air Travel through "Ready Set Fly"

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--September 30, 2017  by Meredith Manning

Over 140 participants took part in The Arc San Francisco's air travel practice at SFO as guests of “Ready Set Fly,” an on-plane experience designed to help individuals and families with developmental disabilities like autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy prepare for the challenges of air travel. 
Many families who have never flown before were nervous but excited to try the practice experience in a safe supported environment designed to help new flyers overcome barriers to visiting relatives outside the region, or even taking that long-awaited trip to the Magic Kingdom.

Toting carry-on suitcases, stuffed animals and an assortment of digital devices, moms, dads and kids started the long day at a pre-boarding workshop with clinical specialists' strategies for success.
Over 40 families joined "Ready Set Fly" at SFO for a day of disability travel education and an on-plane practice aboard a Jetblue aircraft.
Attendees then moved through ticketing, security and on to the gate to board a JetBlue aircraft where they buckled up and got a real feel for air travel through simulated engine sounds and the standard safety demonstration by flight attendants.

“This program is a great way for us to see if our daughter is ready to handle a trip. We just went through security and she was not happy about being separated from her belongings—but she did it,” said Morena Grimalda with daughter Ximena, 18.

“We’re learning new tips today,” said Joo Yui, with son Gabriel, 8, “like how to access the special accommodation security lines through TSA Cares. My goal? Take the kids to Disneyland—and maybe Hawaii someday.”

The Ready Set Fly program, now in its third year, has logged some surprising successes. Returning participant Gladys Silva said that because of the program, her family flew with her 22-year old son to see family in Peru—a 10-hour trip they never thought they could achieve. “The kids learn, the parents learn and the airlines learn,” she said. “We’re back again this year so that we can just normalize flying for our son.”

“All families deserve the opportunity to fly,” said The Arc San Francisco CEO Dr. Glenn Motola, a father who flies with his own children with disabilities. “Just as important as the on-board practice is an understanding of how to prepare. From assessing your child’s tolerances and triggers to understanding airport rules and regulations, families who are prepared will have a much more relaxing, comfortable trip—and that’s our goal.”
Noise-cancelling headphones are helpful to children who have a heightened sensitivity to sound.

SFO Airport Director Ivar Satero said that the program not only gives families the confidence to travel, but also gives his employees the opportunity to understand their role in providing information, accommodations and support to these valuable customers.

Kenneth Johnson, JetBlue SF General Manager, said that seeing families board a plane for the first time was the best reward his team of volunteers could hope for. “These families have dreams of traveling just like everyone else. We’re here to help them achieve those dreams.”

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