EducationExclusivesNewsOfficesStandardsHow to create an autism friendly environment: National Autistic Society explains

The National Autistic Society has produced a guide to accessible environments which helps workplaces to be more autism friendly.  
Content Team8 months ago9 min

There are many adjustments that workplaces can make to adapt their facilities to support autistic people, including employees and visitors. These include adaptations to bright lights, noise, crowds and queues. The National Autistic Society guidelines provide key insight to practical, actionable change that can take effect immediately. 

Tom Purser, Head of Guidance, Volunteering & Campaigns, said: “It’s so important that workplaces make reasonable adjustments for autistic people and their families.

“For many autistic people, the unpredictability, the noise and the hustle and bustle of the workplace can be difficult to cope with, especially if they experience sensory overload. But making small changes such as providing quiet work spaces or changing the lighting can make a huge difference and help to ease stress and anxiety.”

The tips and advice from the National Autistic Society guide are applicable to many workplaces, highlighting what can be done to make spaces in the built environment more autism-friendly.

Bright lights

  • Can you reduce the brightness of the lights within your buildings?
  • If this is not possible in all areas of your buildings, can you allocate an area where lights are dimmed and it is quieter than the rest of the building(s)?

Noise

  • Do you play background music? Can the volume of this be reduced?
  • Can you reduce other noise? Provide information about what could happen and when so that people are prepared.
  • Can you provide alternatives to noisy hand dryers in toilet areas?
  • Some autistic people choose to wear ear defenders in noisy environments. Could you have some available for loan if needed?

Crowds and queues

  • Are there areas of your buildings which are susceptible to crowds?  Is there a way that you can minimise this?  Maybe the recent COVID measures gave you strategies to manage these? Let autistic employees and customers know which times tend to be quieter and which are busier.
  • Could you allow customers into your venue outside of these times, opening earlier or later for those who need it? If you have a busy waiting area (for example, in a medical clinic), could someone wait outside or in their car and be called when it is their turn?
  • Is there a system by which you can support people to avoid queues? If tickets can be booked online make sure you publicise this. Or could you open up alternative routes?

Temperature

  • How do you monitor the temperatures within your buildings?
  • Are there ways that you can adapt the temperatures across your buildings?
  • Do you have good ventilation systems?

Maps

  • If there are multiple areas to your building, a map could help autistic visitors to navigate their way around.
  • You could highlight areas that could be busy or noisier that they may wish to avoid.
  • If appropriate, offer alternative routes, ‘quiet trails’, through the building.

Sensory story

  • A sensory story would take a visitor on a journey through your venue using the senses. You could begin with a description of what the venue and what services are included within it.
  • You could then take visitors on a journey of what they might be expected to see, hear, smell and taste if they were to visit.

Quiet space

  • Some businesses are able to provide sensory rooms. These are quiet spaces usually with low lighting and comfortable seats.
  • If you cannot offer this, you can still be autism-friendly.
  • Is there a quiet space within your business or service that is away from the main crowds, has low level lighting (or lighting that can be dimmed) where an autistic person could retreat to if an environment becomes too much?

Autism hour

  • You could organise a special autism hour during a less busy period, or this could be a quieter session just for autistic visitors. This could be a monthly event, opening an hour or two later or earlier than usual.
  • During the autism hour you could dim your lighting and turn down music or other sounds and have staff who understand autism on hand.

“There are many other ways for workplaces to be more autism friendly, such as providing clear communication and information about their spaces, as well as autism training for all staff,” added tom Purser.

For more advice and guidance about the helpful changes which venues can make, visit www.autism.org.uk.”

Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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