April is Autism Acceptance month. The Isle of Man Government has released new documents containing Top Tips on an Autism Friendly Environment. They include some of the advice mentioned below.
Public events are sometimes difficult for autistic people and people with autism spectrum conditions (ASCs), because they can be very sensitive to sensory input, like lights, noise, smells or textures. New places or situations with crowds and strangers can also make people feel anxious about attending events.
Sensory overload and anxiety can lead to people feeling isolated or left out, but a little extra preparation and a few adjustments can make sure the events you run are inclusive for everyone.
There are many ways to make events less overwhelming to the senses, and even small adjustments can make a big difference to how comfortable people will feel.
• Advertise your event’s autism-friendly features so that people know about them in advance
• Allow support staff or carers to join for free
• Provide information ahead of the event, explaining what will happen, when and where – including maps, photos or virtual tours of the venue can be very helpful
• Provide a clear running order for the event, and highlight anything that will be particularly bright, noisy, or unexpected
• Make yourself easy to contact for enquiries or requests for special adjustments
• Make it clear that people are welcome to wear hats, sunglasses or headphones to limit sensory overload
Autistic people and people with ASCs can also find it difficult to understand information if it’s vague or not presented clearly. Not knowing what to expect can make people feel very anxious, but you can help to reduce anxiety by thinking about:
• Signage – make sure you signpost things clearly, and that signs have up-to-date information
• Provide information about your buildings and services so that people can find out what to expect ahead of time – maps, floor plans, photographs and virtual tours can all help people feel more prepared and less anxious before they arrive
• Ask for feedback – make it easy for people to tell you about things they struggle with when they’re using your services
. You can reduce the chance of people becoming overwhelmed by thinking about:
• Turning down or turning off background music
• Using softer lighting, and avoiding harsh fluorescent lights where possible
• Keeping scents to a minimum – avoid strong smelling cleaning products or air fresheners
• Designating quiet shopping times – remember to advertise them, so that people know when they’re happening
• Letting people book specific appointment times, so they can avoid long waits, queues or crowds
• Providing or encouraging the use of sensory shields such as headphones or sunglasses
Villa Gaiety provide 360 online maps of each venue, so they can be explored before attending any events or performances. They also provide additional assistance to those who require it, relaxed
performances, essential companion scheme and information on how to get to each venue.
Bus Vannin are one of the leading organisations for using the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities programme in the Island. Part of
this service is providing virtual tours of their single and double decker buses
Ronaldsway airport provide information online about the process of going through security so that people can find out what to expect in advance of travelling. The airport also supports the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities programme.
Further information and advice
The Department for Enterprise offers an accessibility grant scheme for businesses wishing to adjust in line with the Equality Act (2017). You can download an application form and find more information about the scheme online or by contacting email@example.com.
There are many online resources which give information and advice about adjusting environments and services for autism and ASCs.
The National Autistic Society (UK) has this autism-friendly guide to accessible services, which includes a downloadable checklist for creating accessible services, environments, and information.
Local organisations can also help by providing advice and information:
- Isle of Man Government gov.im/autismacceptance
- Autism in Mann – firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07624 480167
- Autism Initiatives – email@example.com or call 01624 814801
- Crossroads Isle of Man – firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01624 673103
- Manx Mencap – support with learning disabilities – email@example.com or call 01624 677289