Two shopping centres in Leeds are supporting Autism Week by taking significant steps to become more autism-friendly, offering a more inclusive retail experience for all visitors.
Landsec-owned Trinity Leeds and White Rose have announced a range of services to be implemented over the next 12 months to tackle some of the barriers faced by people with autism and their families.
The news comes during Autism Week, which runs from April 1 to April 7, and aims to raise awareness and support for the 700,000 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with autism.
According to the National Autistic Society, 50 per cent of autistic people and their family members sometimes don’t go out because they’re worried how people will react. Additionally, 79 per cent of autistic people and 70 per cent of family members feel socially isolated, and 28 per cent of autistic people have been asked to leave a public space because of behaviour associated with their autism.
In a bid to help tackle these issues and support people with autism and their carers, Trinity Leeds and White Rose will offer:
- Sensory toy bags for children with autism during their visit
- Downloadable, printed guides for guests to familiarise themselves with the layout, look and feel of the destination in advance of their visit
- Weekly quiet hours, during which lighting will be dimmed and music will be reduced in central areas
- The use of a quiet room, to allow families or individuals to rest in a calm, quiet space.
In addition, front of house staff will receive training to support guests with hidden disabilities.
The new services will be introduced throughout 2019, and will be completed by Autism Week 2020.
Dan Wharton, marketing manager at Trinity Leeds, said: “There are so many retail and leisure destinations that don’t tend to take everyone’s accessibility needs into account. As a result, visits can be incredibly difficult and stressful. These measures are a step in the right direction to help make Trinity Leeds more welcoming for all, including people with autism and their carers.”
The initiative has been announced just weeks after the White Rose Shopping Centre launched its own ‘Quiet Tuesdays,’ which offer a calm environment without music, product demonstrations, or mall activity, from 10am to noon on the first Tuesday of the month.
White Rose has also published an Autism-Friendly Guide in association with local charity Specialist Autism Services, and the Cineworld hosts monthly autism-friendly screenings on the first Sunday of every month.
Steven Foster, general manager at the White Rose Shopping Centre, said: “We’ve been working hard to make sure we cater for all shoppers and give them a relaxing, stress-free visit, but we’re excited to build on this even further, making White Rose as accessible and inclusive as possible.”