Local businesses can help to make the UK more autism-friendly by taking part in the UK’s first Autism Hour.
The inaugural event, organised by The National Autistic Society, will see shops and services across the UK dim their lights, turn down music and share information about autism for 60 minutes on the week of 2 October.
Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, said:
“Like anyone, autistic people and their families want the opportunity to go to the shops and services on the high street. But our research suggests that many find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of public places overwhelming and avoid them altogether. We hope that the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour will provide a break for families in the week and in the long term will help spread understanding so that shops and services are more accessible every day of the year.
“A basic understanding of autism could transform the lives of autistic people and their families and avoid them becoming isolated or trapped in their homes. I hope businesses in PLACE will take part and help to make the local area more autism-friendly.”
The National Autistic Society’s survey suggests that 64% of autistic people avoid going to the shops, and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. The charity is asking shops and services to take simple steps for one hour to help create a more autism friendly world - from dimming the lights and turning down music to sharing information about autism with employees.
More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum which means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience which means they feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information’ when out in public.
The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour is supported by shopping centre owner intu and will take place in 14 of their shopping centres across the UK including intu Trafford centre, intu Lakeside and intu Metrocentre. Staff at intu centres already receive training to provide autism-aware customer service and autistic people also benefit from guides that allow them to plan and prepare a visit to each intu centre.
Clarks and Toys ‘R’ Us are also amongst shops and services that have already signed up, after previously hosting quiet hours in individual stores. Lloyds Banking Group is also supporting by educating colleagues and customers about autism during Autism Hour. The charity is calling on others to follow their lead and open up their businesses to autistic people.