The National Autistic Society is launching a campaign to encourage shops and businesses to better understand the challenges people with autism face when shopping.
The Autism Hour campaign takes place between October 6-13 and urges retailers and shopping centres to take simple steps to be more accessible to autistic people for one hour during the week. Those already involved include Sainsbury’s, Argos and Lloyds Bank.
Many autistic people can find social situations such as shopping challenging, where there is a variety of sounds, smells and sights as well as information to process. Steps shops can take include dimming lights, turning down music and sharing information about autism with staff.
The campaign includes a film, which is being made available via Facebook and offers a first person view of how overwhelming shopping can be for an autistic person.
The film has been created by Don’t Panic and distributed by VT.
According to the charity almost two thirds (64%) of people with autism say they avoid shops and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism.
“Autistic people represent a huge part of our society and it is a disgrace 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 to their autism,” said National Autistic Society Chief Executive Mark Lever.
“They and their families want and deserve to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else.
“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. “
Celebrities also involved
The National Autistic Society hopes that the initiative has a lasting impact beyond the week of activity, which also includes endorsements from celebrities such as TV presenter Chris Packham who is on the autistic spectrum and is an ambassador for the charity. Another is ITVBe Real Housewives of Cheshire star Christine McGuiness, who is mother to five-year-old autistic twins.
“I rarely go into supermarkets. I find that environment really challenging, all of the bright lights, the confusion of the enormous complexity of goods in there, plus all the smells and the sounds,” said Packham.
“It’s a difficult environment. And that’s why I’m very keen to support Autism Hour, those shops which offer an hour where they make the whole atmosphere a lot more relaxing for autistic people.”
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