Trichter said that the project was apt for children on the spectrum because it matches their interests.
April was Autism Acceptance Month and children on the autism spectrum were asked to make PSA announcements on major public transit systems and the riders were delighted to hear these voices, as reported by TODAY. The Autism Transit Project was carried out in major metro stations across the nation. It included California, Georgia, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and New York. The initiative is headed by Jonathan Trichter, the founder of two schools in Connecticut and New York for students with special needs. According to Mayo Clinic, autism spectrum disorder is a condition associated with brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others.
“Hey everyone, I’m Ryan. Please stand clear of the closing doors,” a child from California announced in a recording for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in the San Francisco area. "My name is Alonso, and I love trains so much that New Jersey Transit let me make the announcement as part of Autism Acceptance Month," another child said in a recording. "Remember to let people leave the train before you get on. Help us keep the trains moving."
"My name is Taylor and I love trains and buses," a child narrated for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in D.C. "Please be mindful of the priority seating reserved for senior citizens and persons with disabilities." Trichter said the project was apt for children on the spectrum because it matches their interests. “Being around children with autism, I became very familiar with a phenomenon where some kids focus intensely on (for example), systems of mechanical engineering that we encounter every day, which often includes trains,” he said.
He started the project in April last year in New York City - in one day, 11 stations participated, broadcasting every 15 minutes during the day, as reported by MTA. This year, the children were chosen by the transit agencies in the Bay Area of California, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New Jersey, and New York City. More than 100 children with autism recorded the announcements. However, not all of them made the final cut, reported The New York Times. BART spokesperson Jim Allison said, “Children on the spectrum are often some of our biggest fans — what a great way to give them a thrill."
We announced earlier this month our participation in the Autism Transit Project. This was Metro’s first time partnering with young Transit Enthusiasts in the region to bring awareness to Autism Acceptance Month. #MetroBoardMeeting #wmata #AutismAcceptanceMonth— Metro Forward (@wmata) April 27, 2023
Local volunteers from 17 families were part of the announcements that were played every 30 minutes in 50 BART stations in April. "Maybe a rider hears the message and gets an emotional lift — BART is a communal experience, unlike inching along the freeway alone in a car," he said. "Perhaps some of our younger riders hear someone their age making an announcement and feel a connection — it’s vital for us to engage our next generations of riders." Colleen Kiernan, assistant general manager in external affairs at MARTA in Atlanta said that the Autism Transit Project received immediate approval. “Autism has touched my family and I knew what a positive impact this would have," she said. "We have received great reactions from our customers, some even asking if we can use the announcements year-round because they brighten their day!"
"...these kids’ voices have been heard by public transit riders in the Bay Area, New York City, New Jersey, Atlanta, and Washington D.C., through a project aimed to promote acceptance of autism with an industry many on the spectrum feel personally connected to: transportation."— California Policy Center for IDD (@CPCIDD) April 25, 2023
Trichter shared that the families were excited to hear the announcements. “You could see the unadulterated pure joy on the children’s faces,” says Trichter. “Many of the parents reported that they saw in their children an advancement in their pride and self-assurance.” The announcements were not only gratifying for the families but a boost for the transit agencies as well, said Kevin S. Corbett, the president and chief executive of New Jersey Transit told NYT. “This sort of throws people off their regular routine and catches their attention,” Mr. Corbett said. “It’s definitely gotten a really happy feel for a lot of people, much more than any of us would have expected." Trichter wants the project to go global to cities like Tokyo, Berlin, London, and Paris. "This hit a nerve," he said. "It's a chance for people to take a moment to learn that some kids are different but similar — and no less."