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What do travel programs need to know about their neurodivergent traveller population?

What do travel programs need to know about their neurodivergent traveller population?
27th March 2024 Simona Listvanaite
Simona Listvanaite
In Events

Travelling for work can be tough for anyone. However, the added sights, sounds, and routine changes from trips could create added stress for a neurodivergent person. Understanding and finding ways to support neurodiversity helps build and strengthen inclusive environments in our industry. Our friends at BCD Travel produced a podcast episode dedicated to the topic in observance of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, observed March 18-24. They also shared some insights they learned from our Women In Travel Neurodiversity in Travel Online Mini Summit 2024.

Things learned at the Summit

In February, we partnered with BCD Travel for a virtual mini-summit that addressed integrating the needs of the neurodivergent community into travel. The summit explored practical strategies for inclusion, including accommodations, communication techniques, and workplace policies that support neurodivergent employees and customers. The event gave voice to neurodivergent individuals and their allies and served as a call to action for consistent advocacy and education surrounding neurodiversity in the travel industry. BCD’s panelists for the online event included Yvette Bryant, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Equity & InclusionOlivia Ruggles-Brise, vice president of Sustainability; and Merrily Grant, patient engagement manager for BCD’s Life Sciences Center of Excellence (LSCOE)Alessandra Alonso, our award-winning founder of Women in Travel CIC, also joined.

Here are their takeaways:

Yvette Bryant: The online summit was incredible. We covered quite a lot; but the takeaway for me is how we need to create safe spaces for people to share their experiences and lessons learned – whether they’re neurodivergent or working to support someone who is. It’s the only way to build the inclusivity we need and it will ultimately enhance wellbeing, understanding and even productivity for travelers and stakeholders. If you are not a neurodivergent person, the chances are pretty high that you likely know someone who is, Yvette said. And so on a human level, I think the more we educate ourselves about this and about each other, I believe the more we know, the more we want to do, the more it prompts us to want to take those actions to really ensure inclusion and an inclusive world for everyone. I love the mantra, ‘Nothing about us without us,’ and that’s really talking about the fact that you need to seek out and understand from those with lived experience, what their needs may be.

Merrily Grant: Oh, the places we’ll go! Summits like this are a sign we’re moving in the right direction. Progress will come from making people feel safe. We’re going to start tapping into some thought processes and energy we never had before as awareness and education become more mainstream. Building trust and empathy will always be important here. We all need to listen with our hearts as we work to build safe spaces and inclusion.

Olivia Ruggles-Brise: It’s all about understanding. We have to listen first, understand and then take steps to be more inclusive. Creating psychological safety is key. We have to build a work environment where people feel they can be who they are. That might mean re-evaluating some of our cultural conditioning – like the expectation of shaking hands or making eye contact in business settings – because these norms can be challenging or uncomfortable for certain individuals.

Alessandra Alonso: The Neurodiversity in Travel Online Mini Summit 2024* was a truly groundbreaking event when it comes to including and learning about our customers and our colleagues’ needs. We are grateful to BCD Travel for their partnership and hope that the content will be helpful to many businesses in this space.

Implementing policies and services, such as sensory-friendly travel options and clear communication protocols, not only enhances the travel experience for neurodivergent employees but also demonstrates a commitment to diversity and equity. One such neurodiversity-friendly service is the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program, created to help people with invisible disabilities discreetly signal in public places that the individual may need additional support.

You can now purchase the replay of the Neurodiversity in Travel Online Mini Summit 2024 on our Shop Page Here.



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