This summer has been a tad amazing. Great weather, amazing friends, trips to remember, drama for weeks and a ton of lols. On the penultimate day of summer 2018 my 2018 summer secures a place in the Hall of Summers with a visit from my brother.
He arrived in the UK on Tuesday and will spend the next four days with me in Canterbury/London along with my mum and yiayia (grandma).
So far, their trip has been eventful to say the least.
Larnaca airport prides itself for being an airport for everyone. They have hosted days with people on the spectrum to experience the process of arrival, security checks, boarding and the aircraft. They have special paraphernalia to identify persons who require special assistance and priority service. In fact, ACI Europe awarded Larnaca International Airport with the first prize, among 500 other European airports from 45 states, in the category of “Most Accessible Airport for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility.
Unfortunately, my family had to wait for an hour and a half while COBALT airlines found them three seats together – even though my brother had priority. This lead to them boarding the plane last. I assume that making a 20 year old autistic adult wait at check in for an hour and a half is not part of their accessibility offerings.
However, we recognise the efforts made by Hermes and we look forward to the smoothing out of such issues in the future.
We should also recognise that my brother flies quite often and therefore is familiar with airports. We are unable to fathom what would have happened if this was experienced by another person with autism.
Heathrow accessibility support on the other hand is incredible. They are prepared, organised, and trained to help. They act with professionalism and sympathy to people with hidden disabilities and the elderly. Due to Heathrow’s amazing partnerships with Autism West Midlands, the National Autistic Society and Autism Alliance they are ready, willing and able to assist travelers with cognitive disabilities and offer some comfort to their families.
I must also mention Qatar’s accessibility support which we experienced in December while we were travelling back from Sri Lanka on our own. We were met at the aircraft door and we were accompanied to the door of our connecting flight. We were so comfortable that we didn’t even notice that we were there for 2 hours. This shouldn’t be a surprise since in 2007, the Qatar representative to the UN, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, put forward a UN General Assembly resolution, to create World Autism Awareness Day. This gave way to a day dedicated to raising awareness about ASD across the world.
I hope that Larnaca and Cobalt will continue to learn and adapt, and one day follow the footsteps of these airports and become inclusive and sympathetic to people who require assistance.
He has adapted to the Underground, national rail and bus journeys better than I have after 10 years of living in the UK. I cannot put into words how proud I am of this boy, because he makes everything seem so easy. That’s the thing about autism – you have to know about it to know about it. And that’s why we are moved to tears when international airports, strangers and society make sure that our kids are looked after.
Of course even though my brother is cool AF, under the calmness of our tough exterior we are consumed by hurricanes because we know that the circumstances are not easy. That is why we worry ourselves sick whenever he is on the move, we don’t eat until he’s finished eating and we don’t sleep until he’s dreaming.
But, any autism family will tell you that stress, hunger and insomnia are a small price to pay for knowing your soulmate.
I will keep you updated on our Big Fat Cypriot Weekend which will be the perfect end to the perfect summer.