Improving Accessibility and Airport Experience for Neurodivergent Individuals and Individuals with Dementia-Related Conditions

The traditional design and operation of terminals may not be sufficient to accommodate neurodivergent individuals and individuals with dementia-related conditions. Neurodivergence is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of diagnoses related to the ways the brain processes information. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of travelers with memory-related conditions. Given the complexity, inherent stress, and challenges of air travel, research is needed to provide guidelines and resources to help airport operators design and operate their facilities to enhance the travel experience of people with neurodivergent disorders and provide relevant training for staff. The objective of this research is to develop a guide to help airport industry practitioners meet the needs of neurodivergent individuals. The guide should be customizable and scalable for commercial service and general aviation airports of varying sizes, resource availability, and governance models. It should provide at a minimum: (1) Primer describing: (a) Understanding of neurodivergence and how it can affect an individual’s airport experience; (b) Current practices and gaps in knowledge in meeting the needs of neurodivergent populations in an airport setting; and (c) Evolution of relevant policies and regulations. (2) Fact sheets describing options that could be implemented in an airport setting. The options should include at a minimum: (a) Spatial improvements (e.g., renovations, new construction), (b) Fitting out the space (e.g., acoustics, lighting, furniture, and finishes), (c) Wayfinding and informational signage, (d) Amenities, services, and resources (e.g., assistive devices), and (e) External and internal communications and training materials. (3) For each option, the fact sheet should provide: (a) Summary description, (b) Neurodivergent subgroups who could benefit, (c) Enabling actions, (d) Schematic diagrams for spatial-based solutions, and (e) Order-of-magnitude resource requirements (e.g., cost, staffing). (3) Strategies, resources, metrics, and tools (e.g., decision trees, flow charts, checklists, survey templates) to help airports: (a) Identify local stakeholders and neurodivergent communities and include them in the decision-making process; (b) Identify challenges of neurodivergent communities, their caregivers, and/or service animals at their facility under typical and atypical (e.g., irregular operations) conditions; (c) Evaluate, select, and implement the options most appropriate for the airport’s unique circumstances; (d) Incorporate neurodiversity considerations into all aspects of airport decision making (e.g., by updating airport policies); (e) Ensure stakeholder compliance (e.g., use of contracting for enforcement); (f) Identify traditional and alternative funding sources; and (g) Communicate with neurodivergent populations regarding available airport resources. (4) Resources (e.g., talking points, templates, sample scripts, and storyboards) to help airport develop training materials for staff to improve understanding of neurodivergent individuals and their needs, use of inclusive language, promoting sensitive, respectful interactions, and overview of relevant regulations. (5) Templates to help airport develop materials for the public (e.g., social stories) to prepare for their airport experience. (6) Representative case study examples summarizing the use of relevant options to meet the needs of neurodivergent individuals.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $650000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 07-22

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Airport Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Aviation Administration

    800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  United States  20591
  • Project Managers:

    Navarrete, Joseph

  • Start Date: 20240221
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01889753
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 07-22
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Aug 8 2023 6:48AM