circle split into six sections on a dark blue background. one section titled 'adjustments' is highlighted. this section is split into three parts labelled ‘unsuitable adjustments, pace pressures' and ‘inflexible communication'

“Something that I have found a bit easier because of COVID is the fact that in like a lot of restaurants now you sort of can order online like while you’re in the restaurant. You can use that like an online tool and be able to order the food to you rather than having to speak to someone”

People in our focus groups identified that the lack of suitable adjustments can make places with challenging sensory environments more inaccessible. They described the importance of:

  • Enabling an individual’s communication needs and preferences
  • Being able to reduce the pressure and pace of interactions
  • Ensuring that adjustments aren’t tokenistic

There is an expectation to use spoken language to communicate in many public places which people reported can be anxiety provoking. People identified that this can be more challenging at times, especially when they are feeling overwhelmed by the sensory environment. Some people identified that being able to use other technology, such as ordering food through an app can help to make this easier.

Many of our autistic people identified that existing schemes to support them are failing to increase accessibility in public places. ‘Quiet’ or ‘Autism’ hours in shops or supermarkets are infrequent and are often at times that are difficult to access. Other approaches such as the Sunflower Lanyard scheme (where people with a hidden disability wear a sunflower lanyard to indicate they may need additional support) is often misunderstood and does not enable them to receive additional support. People identified that the diversity within autism means that support should be tailored to an individual such as by enabling them to identify how best to support them.  

Questions for businesses and organisations to think about:

  • Are people who visit your space able to make any adjustments to their environment? For example, sitting in a space away from a large mirror or further away from a speaker
  • Is it possible to include information about any potential accommodations that can be made online so that people are aware of these in advance?
  • Are staff aware of the potential accommodations they can make to support people?
  • Are individuals able to choose their communication preference? For example, are they able to check in or order through an app/website?
  • Are people able to use other visuals to support their communication when ordering/paying for products? Are any of your staff trained in basic Sign Language/Makaton?
  • Is there adequate signing for people to be able to navigate your location? Are locations such as toilets easily identifiable?
  • Does your location have ‘quiet’ or ‘autism friendly’ hours? Are these times easily accessible for most people? Do they include times that people with caring responsibilities or those who work 9-5 would be able to access?
  • Do you have a way that individuals who visit your space can indicate whether they may need additional support for their sensory needs? Can staff recognize this? Is it possible to give this information when making a booking in advance?

For more information on the other themes identified, click on the images below…

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