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Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Becomes Autism-Certified

The Florida airport organization shows its commitment to inclusivity and customer service

By Linden M. Bayliss

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA), the organization that operates both Orlando International Airport and Orlando Executive Airport, has undergone the process to become a Certified Autism Center. The designation is awarded by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) and highlights GOAA’s dedication to accessibility as well as a responsibility to better understand and assist autistic or sensory-sensitive individuals as they travel. A Certified Autism Center is a facility or organization in which at least 80% of staff is highly trained, fully equipped, and certified in the field of autism; facilities and organizations with the designation have a dedication to serving autistic individuals or those with other sensory sensitivities and are committed to ongoing training in autism.

Vertical view of Terminal B main hall inside Orlando International Airport
Vertical view of Terminal B main hall inside Orlando International Airport || Photo by M. Suhail, courtesy of Adobe

“As our passenger traffic steadily increases, we have a responsibility to foster an environment where all visitors feel welcomed and comfortable in the airport’s bustling surroundings,” says Kevin J. Thibault, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority about Orlando International Airport, in a prepared statement. “We are committed to embracing a better understanding and knowledge of how to effectively communicate and provide assistance to our guests with autistic and sensory-sensitive needs, and this training for our staff will help us to better lean into that commitment.”

As part of the certification process, GOAA staff completed training on how to better serve autistic and sensory-sensitive travelers, and an on-site review was conducted by IBCCES to provide a roadmap of additional accommodations or support that can be offered to travelers in the near future. Ranked the seventh busiest airport in the U.S. and the busiest in Florida in terms of enplanements, Orlando International Airport is served by 41 passenger airlines and offers nonstop flights to 171 destinations worldwide. The airport has an on-site hotel, 10 rental car agencies, several aircraft maintenance facilities, and more than 170 food, beverage, and retail locations. Orlando International also offers the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program, where individuals with disabilities not easily recognized can choose to self-identify by wearing a sunflower-decorated lanyard, notifying airport staff that they might need specific assistance or considerations. A low-sensory room is also in the works and will undergo review soon.

Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chair, commends the GOAA for its dedication in achieving the Certified Autism Center designation. “This is such a huge step toward making travel more accessible and we’re thrilled to continue our work with GOAA as it leads the way in Florida and worldwide,” she says, in a prepared statement. For more than 20 years, IBCCES has been the leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for healthcare, education, and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES creates programs specifically for hospitality, travel, and entertainment organizations such as hotels, theme parks, museums, and other attractions to ensure staff is knowledgeable and appropriate accommodations can be offered to this growing, but underserved part of the community. IBCCES is the only credentialing board offering these types of programs, which include training from subject matter experts and autistic self-advocates as well as long-term support, continuous learning, and more.

IBCCES also created, a free online resource that lists certified locations and professionals. Each organization listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center requirements.