Public places can be overwhelming for individuals with autism, with bright lights, loud music, large crowds and a plethora of noises being key issues. For some, the risk of such sensory overload can significantly reduce the amount of time they are able to spend in their communities - having a detrimental effect on their quality of life.
Fortunately, as awareness and understanding of autism has increased, companies are actively working to ensure they can provide inclusive environments that improve the wellbeing of autistic people and their families. Below, we take a look at some of the ways businesses are making changes for a more autism-friendly community.
Odeon, Vue and Cineworld, three of the biggest cinemas in the UK, all make sure that people diagnosed with autism feel welcome and are able to access an experience that caters to their needs. The adjustments made for a more inclusive environment include low sound and lighting, removing trailers and adverts, offering the freedom to move around during the film and specific training for cinema staff on autism.
The crowds, and associated noise, that football stadiums can draw in can be overwhelming for individuals with autism. Thus, a variety of stadiums have created specific sensory rooms for those with autism and other sensory difficulties. These rooms allow people to enjoy football matches through a window looking on to the pitch, benefiting from the calm environment without missing out on any of the action. Stadiums getting involved include:
- Middlesbrough (Riverside)
- Sunderland (Stadium of Light)
- Arsenal (Emirates)
- Chelsea (Stamford Bridge)
Supermarkets and shops
Led by the National Autistic Society in 2017, a variety of businesses were encouraged to take part in ‘Autism Hour’, an hour where the typical environment is modified to meet the needs of autistic people. Morrisons, however, has gone the extra mile, with all of its branches organising an hour every week where tannoys, self-checkouts and in-store music are turned down. Toy shop, The Entertainer, also has the first hour of every Saturday allocated as a ‘quiet hour’ in each of its shops across the UK.
The intu Trafford Centre in Manchester, the third largest shopping centre in the UK, provides all of its staff with specific autism training and has produced autism-friendly guides to ensure the centre is well equipped to make the shopping experience as enjoyable as possible for autistic visitors.
While there’s still a way to go, it’s wonderful to see big businesses taking steps in the right direction to improve the lives of people with autism and more companies will surely follow.
At Thornbury Community Services, we are dedicated to empowering individuals with autism to live rewarding lives and become active members of their own communities. Find out more about our learning disabilities and autism division here.