Restaurant operators within Intu shopping centres will take part in a quiet ‘autism hour' at 10am on Monday 2 October in partnership with the National Autistic Society.
As part of the charity's awareness campaign, Intu is asking its operators to reduce their lights, music and other background noise for an hour to create better environments for autistic customers and provide them with a break from ‘information overload'.
Intu operates 14 shopping centres nationwide, including Lakeside in Grays, Essex, and the Trafford Centre, Manchester.
A survey by the National Autistic Society suggests that 64% of autistic people avoid going to the shops, and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism.
Staff at Intu centres is training staff to provide autism-aware customer service, and centres also provide guides to allow autistic people to plan and prepare a visit to Intu centres.
More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, which means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience which means they feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information' when out in public.
Alexander Nicoll, corporate responsibility director at Intu, said: "We want to put a smile on the face of everyone who visits an Intu centre and this means training our staff, supporting our customers and working with brands as well as organisations like the National Autistic Society to provide a welcoming and accessible experience for all."
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, added: "Like anyone, autistic people and their families want the opportunity to go to the shops and services on the high street. But our research suggests that many find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of public places overwhelming and avoid them altogether.
"We hope that the hour will provide a break for families in the week and in the long term will help spread understanding so that shops and services are more accessible every day of the year."
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