I’ve just been reading through a twitter thread from It’s Not Shrodinger’s Autism in relation to her experience with travelling recently.
Until reading her post today, I was not aware of The Hidden Disabilities scheme. The scheme serves to recognise and promote the fact that, as the name suggests, not all disabilities are visible. Providing a free lanyard and allowing staff to recognise and offer additional support or patience with people who have difficulties. The scheme also operates through some supermarkets and other such places. As yet, it does not appear to be internationally recognised, but may be persuasive and the more people use it, the larger the scheme will gain recognition.
Having recently flown from Manchester airport to Geneva early on a Saturday morning, I can state that on this occasion, as someone who used to fly weekly from Manchester that I have never encountered crowds like it, in any airport anywhere. I used to fly a lot from Gatwick, Southampton, Geneva, Manchester and I’ve flown from some of the busiest terminals in the world.
We were only away for a period of three days so travelling could be simplified by use of only carry-on luggage (which we were offered to stow in the hold at no extra cost) an option which we took on the return flight. Security were excellent, despite stopping, taking swabs and ‘wanding’ me. I explained metalwork in my body and was processed with courtesy and professionalism.
However it was impossible to get a drink or something to eat without monolithic queues. Fast food outlets (I fail to recall due to the stress of the experience but I think that it was Burger King) had tills down and faulty self-service screens. In the end, my partner and I managed to settle on a bland sandwich and I had a glass of wine which was far more expensive than any glass I had whilst in Switzerland (the bar staff serving had the gall to tell me to “Smile, you’re on holiday” to be given the response that I that I paid for a bottle and got a glass and couldn’t wait to get a bargain at Swiss prices*)
Anyway, I digress. The lanyard scheme allows use of something called the Sunshine Room, which in Terminal One, Manchester Airport is located behind the fast food outlets. These areas are quiet zones, with reduced lighting and an escape from the pandemonium of the airport terminal. If only I had known about them. Personally, I do consider myself high-functioning, I currently live alone and generally manage to maintain myself and my small flat. However in the throng of crowds I struggle. I really could have used the solace of a quiet area for just a few minutes.
I won’t go into details of our holiday, at least at this point as it would be going off at a tangent which even I would be alarmed at.
We arrived back at Manchester Airport on Monday at around 23:30, having retrieved bags, gone through passport control and all of the usual rigmarole. Having spent suitable time in consideration of transport back to Bradford from the airport, the earliest (and quickest) and fastest option was National Express at about 03.20. A four hour wait in Manchester Airport Arrival lounge. Whereupon there was one shop open. Yes, one! It’s not like airports operate on a 24 hour basis is it! Oh, yes… An utter farce, absolutely nothing to do, for hours on end. The options for food and drink in the arrivals lounge is poor at best, but at least keep them open for pity’s sake. Here there wasn’t a quiet area. People lingering around plug sockets trying to power phones and generally one of the more miserable environments to spend time in.
In summary, I really must look into the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme as I felt that having a few minutes of quiet time would have made the experience more enjoyable.
In contrast Geneva airport:
Welcoming, helpful. The nearest to a stressful experience was my partner showing me a watch which costs more than I would consider spending on a house, several watches, several mountain bikes and an Aston Martin. Thankfully, she was only looking and the staff joked that there was a defibrillator nearby.
*If you’ve not been to Switzerland, I can state, having lived there, that it is not known for bargains.