Vic airport help for 'hidden' disabilities

People with disabilities that aren't easy to immediately spot - such as autism, anxiety disorders or dementia - can now get extra support when they catch international flights at Melbourne.

Melbourne Airport has launched an Australia-first program through which people with "hidden disabilities" can request a lanyard that alerts airport staff they might need extra help at the international terminal.

The airport has also released sensory maps showing areas in the terminal where travellers may face additional noise and crowds, along with quieter sections where they can find some reprieve if needed.

Social stories - which help some people with autism understand what to expect in certain situations - have also been developed, laying out the airport's international processes in an easy-to-understand, pictorial format.

Almost one in five (18.5 per cent) Australians live with a disability, but only 4.4 per cent of them use a wheelchair or mobility aid.

Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Andrew Gardiner said the new program was aimed at opening up the option of catching a flight to people who may have otherwise found it too overwhelming in the past.

"A significant segment of travellers require an additional level of support, and this program aims to take the stress out of travel for those who need it most," he said.

"We feel this program could make a real difference to passengers, especially those with young children."

As part of the program, Melbourne Airport staff are receiving extra training to ensure they can provide extra care and consideration to those who need it.

The initiative was formally announced on Sunday but kicked off at the start of September, with 265 people using it so far.

It was developed with input from industry leaders, people living with hidden disabilities such as autism, dementia, anxiety disorders and dyslexia and their carers, and trialled by some families in earlier months.

The new lanyards can be ordered from Melbourne Airport's website, where the sensory maps and social stories can also be found.

The airport is hoping to provide social stories for its domestic terminal by early 2020.