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Melbourne Airport introduces Hidden Disability Program

A holiday interstate or overseas can be an exciting time for most people. They have time off work, are going to a special event or to catch up with friends or family or just getting out to see the world.

However, the airport can be an overwhelming place at the best of times; with crowded walkways, competing voices filled with excitement and anticipation, the cheery welcomes of the check-in assistants, not to mention the loud announcements calling passengers to the gate as their plane is about to leave!  

For some individuals in our community who are sensitive to high sensory environments, the constant buzzing atmosphere of the airport can be a confronting and frightening experience. This includes people who are living with a ‘hidden’ disability such as; intellectual disabilities, mental illness, or visual and hearing impairments.

With this in mind, Melbourne Airport has developed its Hidden Disability program in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, ISS, Autism Spectrum and other partnering businesses.

The program is designed to make it easier for people living with a ‘hidden’ disability to travel more comfortably and allows airport staff to recognise jet setters that may need some extra support.

This includes a brightly coloured lanyard to identify passengers, a sensory map that outlines the high and low sensory areas within the airport, and social stories to illustrate the step-by-step processes of both arrivals and departures within Melbourne Airport.

Airport staff are also undertaking further training to ensure that additional care, consideration, and information is provided during the travellers time through their airport journey.

Airports in other states are currently running similar programs designed with the same purpose in mind, including a full video edition of the social stories for visual learners. You can read more about these programs here:

Adelaide Airport
Brisbane Airport
Hobart Airport

While the program can never fully take away the noisy and busy atmosphere of Melbourne airport, hopefully it will make it easier for travellers with a hidden disability to feel safe and supported and share an exciting travel experience as much as the next person!  

If you are planning to travel soon and would like to apply for the Lanyard Program or locate the sensory maps and social stories, you can find these resources located on the Melbourne Airport website.

Melbourne Airport, September 2019, ‘Hidden Disability Program’ https://www.melbourneairport.com.au/Passengers/Passenger-information/Hidden-Disability-Program