Airline passengers with intellectual disabilities may benefit from a campaign gaining traction as the Special Olympics World Games continues in Abu Dhabi this week.

A global campaign to improve awareness and use of the 'DPNA Special Service Request (SSR) code', which can be used by travel agents, among others, to alert airlines when a passenger has intellectual or developmental disability and needs assistance, was launched this month.

Online ‘prompts’ are being shown when any flight is about to be booked to or from the United Arab Emirates, the country hosting the sports event.

Travelport, the firm behind the campaign, has also created an information hub to provides guidance for travel agents on talking to travelers about intellectual disabilities and associated assistance.

Response

Emma Hawkins has a stepson with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and has had first-hand experience of the assistance that airlines typically provide for passengers with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

"Not all intellectually disabled people need to get on a flight first with noisy or crying children, and not all need to get on last,” she said.

"In my stepson’s case, once he’s with an established group, he wants the group to stay together. We are a big family and can often arrive at the airport in a group of six or eight. If that’s the case, he wants us all to stay together. So, when the airline says my stepson plus one can get on the plane, can go through security and passport control without queueing, that is no good to us."

"There is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution that airports and airlines can apply that is going to improve the travel experience for people like my stepson. This is why the ability to enter specific details of both the passenger’s intellectual disability and the assistance needed when booking a flight goes a long way to setting expectations upfront."

Dr. Yousef Al Hammadi, Chief Intelligence Officer at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: "We are excited to see companies such as Travelport getting inspired by the values of the Special Olympics movement and creating innovative solutions to help improve everyday experiences and quality of life for People of Determination."

"The World Games are a catalyst for change, and this initiative is a wonderful example of how we can build a legacy of inclusion long after the Closing Ceremony."