People on the autism spectrum often struggle to cope with change and dislike going to new places and having new experiences. However, preparing in advance for something new can help make it easier for these individuals to feel comfortable. Luckily, more and more businesses are beginning to understand the unique needs of people with autism and make changes accordingly.
Eurostar, the high-speed passenger railway service that connects the UK to mainland Europe, recently partnered with the charity Ambitious About Autism to conduct an assessment of their service and how the experience is for people with autism. The charity advised them to create a preparatory guide to navigating the train system to help customers with autism understand what the trip would be like from start to finish.
So Eurostar did exactly that. And they did an absolutely bang-up job of it too. Their new online guide includes six sections—finding the Eurostar ticket gates, going through the ticket gates, passing through security and passport control, waiting for your train, boarding the train, and once you’re onboard. Each section comes complete with a 360° video to help users see and hear what that part of the train station will be like, as well as a description of what the video shows and what passengers need to do.
“Many autistic people can find travelling an overwhelming experience so having information about what to expect before they set off is really important,” says Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious About Autism. “We were very pleased that Eurostar asked us to consult with them on changes that will support their autistic customers’ needs. We hope this new visual guide will help autistic travellers feel more comfortable and confident ahead of embarking on international travel.”
Throughout the virtual guide, the site offers tips and tricks for getting through each checkpoint smoothly. It also encourages customers to try traveling during the quietest times, which are after 2 p.m. Monday to Thursday and before 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Armed with both how-to information and data about the new sensory stimulation they’ll encounter, people with autism can have a more successful trip via the Eurostar train. Having a little bit of extra comfort about the situation can be the difference between a dreadful experience and a peaceful or even fun one.
“We are committed to providing an effortless travel experience for all our customers, and our new guide provides information for those that may be anxious about what to expect on the journey, specifically travellers with autism,” says Amber Kirby, customer experience director for Eurostar. “We hope it helps more of our customers feel prepared so that they can relax and enjoy the experience from the moment they arrive at the station.”
In addition to their new changes to help autistic travelers, Eurostar has also updated the way they handle passengers in wheelchairs and those with unaccredited assistance dogs to help make the journey as effortless as possible.
Check out the video below to see what it’s like to go through security and passport control at the Eurostar railway station. Be sure to click and drag to see all angles!
Thank you, Eurostar, for making your services more accessible to people on the autism spectrum and others with special needs! In fact, these online guides can help literally anyone who has never traveled with Eurostar before prepare in advance for a more successful journey!
Would you use Eurostar’s online guide prior to travel?
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?