Meet Jonathan S.

Inspiring the community to travel and go beyond.

Jonathan S.

I realized there was a challenge, and it largely came about because I started talking to the autism community, and many were not traveling.

Jonathan realized that there was a challenge for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum. Not many in our autism community are traveling. He recognized that airports have developed programs for the community, but something was missing.

With experience in the travel and aviation industries and a background in business and law, Jonathan used this as a driving force towards creating Traveling Wiki.

Today, this organization is making a significant difference in the lives of 20 million Americans and individuals abroad. It is proud to serve those diagnosed with Autism, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's. Its mission is to document resources that empower these communities to access flying, opening a world of possibilities for them.

We enjoyed sitting down with Jonathan to learn more about his advocacy.

Jonathan Sutter from Traveling Wiki

What inspired you to do this project?

I realized there was a challenge, and it essentially came about because I started talking to the autism community and discovered that many were not traveling. At the same time, airports had developed resources to help families with special needs children. So, I put two and two together and said, there's a real challenge here. Many are not traveling, and these resources can help people access travel. It is essential to provide this understanding for individuals across society, regardless of circumstance, so that they can access air travel.

Traveling Wiki has become the largest free online resource center that documents resources for the non-visible disability community at US airports. This community includes people with autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, dementia, ALS, and many other conditions. These resources are available in 11 languages.  

We aim to document the airport resources available so that community members can leverage them and support their travel needs.

Are the resources also tailored to help autistic adults with their travel needs?

Our goal is to make our resources accessible to those 20 million Americans I mentioned before and beyond outside the US, regardless of age and circumstance. We can only document what's there today. So, we don't control what airports install. If an airport only provides resources that are best suited for somebody younger in age, we list those resources because that's what's there. Some airports, for example, ensure that there are areas where daily functions, circumstances that entail daily tasks for adults, and where there needs to be a separate space are available. And we're going to document those. But we can only document what is currently available.  

What would you like society to learn about how we can help families and individuals with autism or any other disability regarding their traveling experiences?

Example of Volunteering in 14 State For Food Insecurity, Including This MultiState Fundraiser for 4k Meals for Displaced Maui Fire Victims

We aim to broaden awareness of the resources and expand awareness inside and outside the community. I believe that with that knowledge will come more engagement with resources beyond travel and building more resources, especially in airports, because we view travel as an enabler in society. To be clear, we are not asking anyone to knock on doors saying, you must do this, you must do this. What we are trying to do is document what's there.

However, growing awareness of the resources we document will lead people to leverage those resources more. As we can see in the listing of airports today, many airports have resources, and many don't. To create more awareness about this, more airports and business entities can implement more initiatives and programs to help individuals and families with disabilities.

What does being a community supporter mean to you?

By partnering with organizations, we can collaborate and better enable access to the resources. That's what it means to me. It is significant to engage with an organization like Autism Speaks and with so many organizations that support what we are doing because by working together, we can engage more stakeholders than we put individually and broaden the awareness we are trying to facilitate with our site.

What would you tell someone who works in the travel industry about helping people with autism and other disabilities regarding their travel experiences?

Presenting to Auditorium Full of Special Needs Parents at Sea World

I would say to the individual working in the travel industry that travel can empower and enable people based on my 25-year experience. You can help change a person's life because even the knowledge of the availability of travel and aviation and beyond can change how someone interacts, engages, and thinks about what they can do. The ability to find different ways to connect with people and meet them where they are as to travel is essential. Autism is a spectrum because there are a variety of circumstances; a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work for everyone. We're trying to find different ways to learn about the stakeholders we're trying to serve and meet them in the way that best works for them.

Learn more about Traveling Wiki.

The story shared above represents the experience, views and perspectives of the individual(s) highlighted. We aim to share stories across the spectrum and throughout the life span, but the information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals.