Landsec to deliver autism-friendly experiences
1 April 2019
To mark World Autism Awareness Week 2019, FTSE-100 Landsec, owner of some of the UK’s most well-known retail destinations including Bluewater, Trinity Leeds and Westgate, Oxford, has announced that it will take significant steps over the next twelve months to make its destinations autism-friendly, with the aim of delivering a more inclusive retail experience.
Over 700,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with autism. According to the National Autistic Society, 50% of both autistic people and family members sometimes don’t go out because they’re worried about how people will react to their autism. 79% of autistic people and 70% of family members feel socially isolated, and 28% of autistic people have been asked to leave a public space because of behaviour associated with their autism.
By introducing new services to guests across the UK, Landsec aims to tackle some of the barriers faced by people with autism, and their families, including social isolation and a lack of understanding from the wider public. The new services will be introduced throughout 2019, and all will be in place by Autism Week 2020.
Landsec will introduce the following services to guests at ten destinations across the UK:
- Sensory toy bags, which will be available for children with autism during their visit.
- Downloadable and printed guides to centres, to allow guests to familiarise themselves with the layout, look and feel of the destination in advance of their visit.
- Hidden disability lanyards, to allow staff to proactively offer assistance.
- Weekly quiet hours, during which lighting will be dimmed and music will be reduced in the central areas of destinations.
A further five destinations - Bluewater; Trinity, Leeds; Westgate, Oxford; White Rose and Gunwharf Quays - will also offer guests the use of a quiet room, to allow families or individuals to rest in a calm, quiet space.
In addition, front of house staff at all destinations will receive training in how to support guests with hidden disabilities.
Jon Spiers, Chief Executive at Autistica, the UK’s autism research charity, commented: “It’s great to see more and more businesses looking at how they can make their environments more accessible and enjoyable for autistic people. Our research shows this is a top priority for the autistic community. Landsec has made some small adjustments that could make a big difference to autistic visitors at their retail destinations. We hope many more companies will consider autistic customers and involve them in the design of their services."
Ailish Christian-West, Head of Property, Retail Portfolio, Landsec, said: “We recognise that retail destinations don’t traditionally cater for neurodiversity, and, as a result, trips can be stressful and difficult. We’re confident that the measures we’ve introduced today are a step in the right direction, and will make our destinations more welcoming for people with autism and their carers.”
The destinations where these services will be on offer are: Clarks Village; Freeport Braintree; 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; Gunwharf Quays; Buchanan Galleries and White Rose.