- Thousands of shops, services and businesses have joined the National Autistic Society’s 2019 Autism Hour campaign
- The annual campaign, which in 2019 begins on 5 October, encourages highstreet shops and businesses to hold Autism Hours
- Shops will take simple steps to create a more autism-friendly experience, like turning down music, dimming bright lights, and sharing information about autism with staff and customers
- Since the beginning of this campaign in 2017, 16,000 shops and businesses have taken part and there have been over 38,000 hours with some stores committing to regular quiet hours all year long.
- 64% of autistic people avoid the shops and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism
Thousands of shops, services and businesses have joined the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour campaign. This year, the annual campaign begins on 5 October, and encourages highstreet shops and businesses to hold Autism Hours throughout the week.
Businesses will take simple steps to create a more autism-friendly experience by sharing information about autism with staff and customers and changing the shopping environment by turning down music and tannoy announcements, and dimming bright lights,
Since the National Autistic Society launched Autism Hour in 2017, 16,000 shops and businesses have joined the campaign and over 38,000 autism friendly hours have taken place: that’s equivalent to 1583 days or 4.3 years. And from joining in with this campaign, stores such as The Entertainer, have committed to regular Autism Hours throughout the year.
An Autism Hour involves shops and businesses:
- Sharing information about autism with employees: The National Autistic Society does not expect everyone to be an autism expert but believes everyone should understand autism. The charity will provide information about autism to help staff make autistic customers' experiences a positive one.
- Turning down music and other noise: Overwhelming noise is a common barrier to autistic people accessing shops. Where possible, in-store tannoy announcements and other controllable noise should be reduced.
- Dimming the lights: Lighting, particularly fluorescent strip lighting, can be overwhelming for autistic people. Wherever possible, whilst maintaining a safe environment, lights should be dimmed or switched off.
- Helping the public understand autism: During the week of 5 October, that National Autistic Society will be asking participating shops and business to share information about autism with their customers.
There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, as well as three million family members and carers. Autistic people often find social and public situations difficult and can struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can make busy public places, like shops, overwhelming.
Like anyone else, autistic people and their families want to have the option of going to shops, whether to pick up the weekly shopping, buy a coffee or browse with a friend. Yet, National Autistic Society surveys suggest that 64% of autistic people avoid the shops. And, shockingly, 28% of autistic people have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated for their autism.
Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said:
“Our research found that 64% of autistic people avoid the shops and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. This is not good enough.
“Autistic people represent a huge part of our society – around 1 in 100 people in the UK. They and their families want to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else. But many find the crowds, noise and unpredictability of our high streets completely overwhelming and end up avoiding them altogether.
“With 38,000 Autism Hours completed over the past two years because of our campaigns, we know shops and businesses want to be involved, they are ready to make the world a more autism friendly place. A big thank you to all of the businesses taking part for helping to lead this change by getting involved.
“The National Autistic Society want a world which works for autistic people. With Autism Hour, we want to show retailers the small things they can do to help open up the high street for autistic people. Things like staff finding out a bit more about autism and making simple adjustments like turning down music or dimming the lights. It’s often the smallest change that makes the biggest difference.
“If you’d like to be involved, please find out more on autism.org.uk”
Autism Hours are designed to show businesses the simple steps they can take to improve the shopping experience for their autistic customers – and their families. The National Autistic Society hope that, after participating, many more businesses will follow The Entertainer’s example and introduce permanent changes to make their business more autism friendly, including through working towards Autism Friendly Award.
Find out more about the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour and how to get involved by visiting: www.autism.org.uk/AutismHour