Last week from 6th October to 13th October, the National Autistic Society estimated that over 10,000 shops and business in the UK took part in Autism Hour Week, including over 20 businesses in Salford.
Shopping centres, supermarkets and high street retailers across the UK have pledged to make simple changes to cater for autistic people for at least one hour a week following Autism Hour Week last week.
Being autistic means seeing, hearing and feeling the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social 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.
During autism hour, these businesses will be turning down music and other noise, dimming the lights, sharing information about autism with employees and also helping the public to understand more about autism. The main aim is that this initiative will lead to a better long-term understanding of autism and that businesses will introduce a permanent change like weekly quieter hours which companies like The Entertainer and Morrisons currently have in place.
There are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK, as well as three million family members and carers related to autism. Salford Now spoke to Peter Baimbridge, at SalfordAutism, about Autism Hour and the response it has had and the benefits it is having in society.
Peter said: “It’s reinforcing the stigma to some extent and extending awareness of a problem which is a double edged sword. You can’t explain things to people until they’ve got some terms of reference. If they pick up the first terms of reference and get it wrong it can make things harder so we spend a lot of time working against the perceptions of things like Rainman and other TV shows.
“He reinforced how every single person with autism behaves differently to another and so their feedback on autism hour has been very different: “I’ve had clients where I’ve had to hold their hands as they do their weekly food shop and I’ve had other people say ‘what bloody use is that to me.”
“I think more parents appreciate it than autistic people because some parents will take their children shopping and they’ll get very excited and began to act up, whereas in quieter hour they find it a little bit calmer and a little bit more relaxed than usual.”
Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, said: “It’s wonderful to see so many well-known high street retailers signed up – and ready to make the world a more autism friendly place.
“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. 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 and their families.”
A vast array of shops and businesses across Salford took part Autism Hour Week, and will aim to have Autism Hour each week, which you can see on the map below.
Join the pledge and register your business with Autism Hour by clicking here.
#AutismHour is here! ?
More than 10,000 shops and businesses this week will make adjustments to make shopping easier for autistic people & their families. Visit our map to find your local Autism Hour: https://t.co/7uM2PP7Jc0
— National Autistic Society (@Autism) October 6, 2018