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Las Vegas airport uses new tech to help special-needs passengers

Updated February 8, 2019 - 7:39 pm

Las Vegas’ airport is turning to technology to streamline the airport experience for those with cognitive disabilities.

McCarran International Airport says it is the first airport in the U.S. to use the MagnusCards smartphone application, created by Canadian company Magnusmode, which assists travelers with cognitive special needs, including autism.

“We want to ensure that all of our passengers are able to safely and efficiently navigate through our airport,” Clark County Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliadis said in a statement. “This app is an excellent concept for our passengers with special needs. This new tool is another example of how McCarran is committed to innovation and improving the passenger experience.”

MagnusCards offers digital card decks that provide step-by-step instructions guiding the user through various activities.

The app is good news to the Kocvara family of Las Vegas. Hailey Kocvara, 23, suffers from autism spectrum disorder.

Hailey’s mother, Cheryl, said anything that can help give her more independence in her adulthood is a big deal.

“I think it’s a great idea as a parent to a child with special needs knowing that I can feel comfortable about taking her to the airport and letting her be independent,” Cheryl Kocvara said. “Knowing that there’s an app and I can tell her to grab the app and it will get you through the airport, that guidance is so important.”

McCarran’s custom app offers five card decks to help individuals make their way around the airport. The app is available for free on Apple and Android devices.

The McCarran card decks will lead passengers from the moment they step into the airport all the way to their departure gate. The decks will also show them how to retrieve their baggage when they return to Las Vegas. Each deck features cards with photographs and explanatory steps designed to make the steps clear to the user. The steps can also be viewed ahead of a trip to McCarran, allowing travelers to become familiar with their surroundings before they step foot in the airport.

“MagnusCards is an innovative and easy way to build an accessible passenger experience that all airports can adopt,” Magnusmode founder Nadia Hamilton said in a statement. “We look forward to supporting accessible travel at McCarran International Airport and other airports around the world.”

Cheryl Kocvara said she and her family haven’t had the opportunity to use the app yet, but they’ll get to test it out when they fly out of town in two weeks.

“We’ll get to see how it works,” she said. “It’ll be fun.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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