In recognition of Autism Acceptance Month, some station announcements on NJ Transit lines feature special guest voices. The agency worked with Happy Hour 4 Kids Station Announcements Program to record local children with autism warning passengers that train doors are closing, among other announcements.
Jonathan Trichter, CEO and founder of Happy Hour 4 Kids, came up with the idea last year to have children with autism record announcements for the New York City transit system. He said it didn’t take long for NJ Transit officials to respond when he pitched his concept to them in February.
“I emailed them and got a response right away,” he said. “The next thing I knew, I was on a Zoom call with half a dozen wonderful executive staff members and the CEO and President Kevin Corbett, whose first words to me were, ‘Jonathan, you had me at hello.’”
Trichter noted that children on the spectrum gravitate towards engineering and other STEM subjects and are fascinated by trains. He adds they grab onto different parts of speech that they hear.
“If they love trains, they will hear announcements,” said Trichter. “It’s really not uncommon for the first full sentence that a young autistic child to utter would be something like ‘stand clear of the closing doors.’”
The announcements can be heard at regional rail stations throughout the NJ Transit system, including the Atlantic City Line.
In addition to the announcements, NJ Transit is also marking Autism Acceptance Month by launching MagnusCards for Trains, a guide to help autistic and neurodiverse people ride trains in a flash-card-style format. The agency previously launched a similar service for bus customers last May. It also has wrapped two buses to help promote autism acceptance.
Trichter said he changed his career from finance to starting programs in schools for children with autism.
”Suffice to say that in my every day encountering people, I have been touched by autism, and it changed my life,” he said.
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