A PORTSMOUTH shopping centre has announced that it is taking significant steps to become autism-friendly over the next 12 months.
Gunwharf Quays will be rolling out a number of new services aimed at improving the shopping experiences for autistic visitors starting with a trial of quiet hours on Saturday and Sunday.
The shops at the outlet centre will dim the lights and switch off the music inside the stores.
Gunwharf Quays plans to make the autism quiet hours a weekly event over the coming year.
Why are quiet hours important?
The National Autism Society have said that overwhelming noise is a common barrier to autistic people accessing shops.
The charity also says that fluorescent strip lighting can be overwhelming for autistic people.
So by switching off the music inside stores and by dimming the lights it can make shopping more accessible for autistic people.
What other services are Gunwharf Quays introducing for autistic shoppers?
Over the next 12 months the Portsmouth shopping centre will also be rolling out sensory toy bags for children with autism and hidden disability lanyards to allow staff to proactively offer assistance.
In addition, Gunwharf Quays front of house staff will receive even more training on how to best support guests with hidden disabilities.
Yvonne Clay, senior marketing manager, said: ‘We are always looking at new ways to ensure that all of our guests have the best possible experience when visiting the centre.
‘As such, we hope the range of new services will tackle some of the barriers faced by people with autism and their families, including a lack of understanding and social isolation.’
The new services have been implemented by Landsec, owner of some of the UK’s most well-known retail destinations, including Gunwharf Quays. They will be introduced throughout 2019, and all will be in place by World Autism Week 2020.
Other Landsec destinations where these services will be on offer are: Clarks Village; Braintree Village; The Galleria, Hatfield; St David’s, Cardiff; Southside, Wandsworth; The O2 Centre, Finchley Road; Lewisham Shopping Centre; West 12 Shopping Centre; Junction 32, Castleford; Bluewater; Trinity Leeds; Westgate, Oxford; Buchanan Galleries and White Rose.