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YYJ marks Autism Acceptance Month by increasing accessibility

Photo credit: Air Canada/Célian Genier

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Canucks Autism Network partners with YYJ & Air Canada Foundation for Autism Aviation Day

May 2, 2023

Victoria, BC – On April 29, 2023, Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and Air Canada Foundation welcomed over 50 individuals from the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) community for Autism Aviation Day.

Rounding out April as Autism Acceptance Month, the event provided an opportunity for children and youth on the autism spectrum and their families to rehearse the entire pre-flight process. The practice run included checking-in, going through security, and boarding an Air Canada aircraft for a simulated pre-flight experience.

Airport ‘rehearsals’ can greatly benefit individuals on the autism spectrum and their families by increasing predictability and decreasing stress. With 1 in 29 children and youth on the autism spectrum in BC, the initiative seeks to increase autism accessibility.

“Our vision is for every individual on the autism spectrum to be understood, accepted, and supported in all community spaces,” said Hallie Mitchell, CAN’s Director of Training and Community Engagement. “We are thrilled to partner with YYJ and the Air Canada Foundation to open up a world of travel opportunities for the autism community.

CAN’s new partnership with YYJ builds off the success of similar initiatives launched with both Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Kelowna International Airport (YLW).

“Victoria International Airport (YYJ) was very pleased to be part of YYJ Autism Day along with the Air Canada Foundation and Canucks Autism Network (CAN),” said Rod Hunchak, Director, Business Development and Community Relations. “Hosting this tour for individuals on the spectrum and their families to practice the airport experience and working with CAN has been a very gratifying educational experience for us. We are committed to continuing our work at the airport to identify and remove barriers for persons with disabilities and make travel accessible for all.”

“We know experiences like this help individuals on the autism spectrum develop the confidence to travel by air. Employees at Air Canada and Jazz Aviation LP spearheaded this initiative to make the magic of travel accessible for everyone,” said Valerie Durand, Spokesperson for the Air Canada Foundation. “80% of the individuals on the autism spectrum on board during the rehearsal were children, and as a Foundation committed to the health and well-being of kids, we couldn‘t be more proud to support this event. I know our colleagues at Air Canada and Jazz enjoyed welcoming them on board!”

The event also represented the launch of an Autism Resource Kit that attending families and all future travelers will be able to access ahead of any departing flight from YYJ airport. Developed in partnership with CAN, the kit features noise cancelling headphones and sensory items to help reduce anxiety.

This partnered initiative from CAN, YYJ, and the Air Canada Foundation is also delivered with support from AutismBC, Travel with Ange, Beaches Resorts, Royal Caribbean & Visit Huntington Beach.


About Canucks Autism Network (CAN)
Canucks Autism Network (CAN) provides programs to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, while promoting acceptance and inclusion through community engagement and training initiatives across BC and beyond. For more information, visit canucksautism.ca.

CAN Media Contact
Lindsay Petrie, Director of Marketing & Communications
[email protected]

About Victoria Airport Authority (YYJ)
Victoria Airport Authority is a not-for-profit authority that has managed the safe and secure operations of the Victoria International Airport on behalf of the surrounding communities since April 1, 1997.

YYJ Media Contact
Rod Hunchak; Director, Business Development and Community Relations

About the Air Canada Foundation
The Air Canada Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focused on the health and well-being of children and youth, was launched in 2012. It offers both financial and in-kind support to Canadian-registered charities. Core programs include the Hospital Transportation Program, which redistributes Aeroplan points to 15 pediatric hospitals across Canada, enabling sick children to access the medical care they need away from home. The Air Canada Foundation, in collaboration with the airline, also engages directly in fundraising activities, such as the Every Bit Counts program, which encourages customers to donate loose change of all denominations on board flights or through collection containers available in Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges. The Foundation also offers continued support to major health-related causes that benefit Canadians and is an active participant in international humanitarian relief activity as the need arises. For more information about the Air Canada Foundation, please read the 2020-21 impact report or the Air Canada’s 2021 Corporate Sustainability report available at www.aircanada.com/citizensoftheworld.

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