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SOAR Program

On October 1, 2016 The Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin will host SOAR, an event hosted at General Mitchell International Airport (MKE). This event is being held in partnership with MKE, The Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, the Transportation Security Administration and TSA Cares. The program is made possible by airplane partners Delta Air Lines, Endeavor Air and Southwest Airlines ® and sponsorship support from the Susan & Leander Jennings Foundation, Jean F. & Charles T. Gorham Fund and individual family support from Angela & Martin Gallun and Liz & Rick Gebhardt.

The SOAR program is a local initiative that is being done for the first time in Milwaukee and is only the second airport rehearsal program ever to be hosted at MKE. This rehearsal is designed for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), their families, and aviation professionals. The goal of SOAR is to alleviate some of the stress that people with disabilities and their families experience when traveling by air. It includes a MKE unique social story that participant families review before the big rehearsal day.

The program provides families with the opportunity to participate in the entire airport experience by practicing entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding an airplane. The program also provides airport, airline, TSA professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured learning environment.

Upon arrival, event attendees will check in to receive their boarding pass, go through security, and be greeted at the gate prior to boarding the plane. Aviation professionals will work with families and volunteers to learn more about people with I/DD. Participants and airline staff will be able to share stories, information, ideas, and best practices for creating an inclusive and safe airport experience for all.

“Traveling can be stressful for anyone, especially for children and adults with developmental disabilities the process can be even more intimidating,” Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said. “I want traveling through Milwaukee County’s General Mitchell International Airport to be a fun and exciting experience for everyone, so I’m proud to support SOAR with Delta, Endeavor Air and Southwest airlines as they raise awareness through this event.”

“Our mission is to improve the lives of all affected by autism,” said Emily Levine, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin. “SOAR is an opportunity for our families to explore the possibility of air travel and expand their world. We plan to continue these events in an effort to empower people with disabilities to travel freely and enjoy a higher quality of life with their families and friends.”

See video coverage here.