The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour has partnered with The Entertainer and gained support from other shops, businesses and shopping centres across the UK to hold Autism Hours throughout the second week of October (6-13).
Following the successful implementation of its own Quiet Hour initiative earlier this year, The Entertainer, have pledged to support the campaign, joining shopping centres, post offices, supermarkets, coffee shops and high street retailers who will be taking simple steps to help create a more autism-friendly world. This means things like turning down music, dimming bright lights, and sharing information about autism.
More than 5,000 shops and businesses took part in last year’s inaugural Autism Hour, including household names like Clarks, Superdrug and Pets at Home. The National Autistic Society wants this year’s Autism Hour to be even bigger and is encouraging more shops and businesses to get involved.
There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, as well as three million family members and carers. 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.
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.
Mark Lever, chief executive at the National Autistic Society, said: “It’s wonderful to see so many well-known high street retailers already signed up – and ready to make the world a more autism friendly place. Thank you to The Entertainer for becoming our sponsor for Autism Hour 2018.
“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.
“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.
“Over 5,000 shops and businesses were involved in the first ever Autism Hour last year, and we want this year to be even bigger. If you’d like to be involved, please find out more on autism.org.uk”
Gary Grant, founder and chairman of The Entertainer, commented: “We are delighted to sponsor the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour. We always strive to make our stores a happy place for people to visit and so it is imperative that we adapt our in-store environment to create a more comfortable space for autistic people. The Entertainer is somewhere for children to explore their imagination and become inspired by all of the toys available and so we hope by supporting Autism Hour in addition to running our own Quiet Hour initiative, more families will feel confident when it comes to shopping with us.”
A case study: The Entertainer
Having taken part in the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour in 2017, The Entertainer felt passionate about introducing something similar on a frequent basis so that more families would feel confident when it came to shopping in its stores. With this in mind, The Entertainer trialled its own Quiet Hour throughout February half term in 2018 where the music in all of its 145 stores was turned off for the first hour of opening.
The initiative was really well received by customers in store and on social media with one customer saying, “Wow this is just amazing… my son 16 now has Asperger’s…he copes well now but when younger loud noises and lights would cause stress. Thank you and well done”.
As a result, a Quiet Hour now takes place every Saturday morning in all stores with the news being spread via its social channels and over 33 pieces of coverage spanning national, consumer and trade media.
Autism Hours are designed to show businesses the simple steps they can take to improve the shopping experience for their autistic customers. We hope that, after participating, many more of them will follow The Entertainer’s example and introduce permanent changes to make their business more autism friendly, including through working towards our 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