Abbey Centre, Newtownabbey, in association with Mercury Security & Facilities Management, are delighted to announce that we have achieved an Autism NI Impact Award. Autism is currently the fastest growing disability in Europe with a 67% increase in diagnosis rates in Northern Ireland.
Autism NI, NI’s largest Autism charity, developed the Impact Awards to help organisations create a more ‘Autism friendly environment’ for their customers. The Autism Impact Award provides businesses with knowledge in the fundamentals of Autism through a tailored one day workshop. It equips businesses to better support and understand any staff and customers they engage with who have Autism, and enhances general awareness of Autism by providing practical strategies for organisations on how to engage effectively with the Autism community.
Clare Beswick, Abbey Centre Marketing Manager said;
‘We have taken practical steps to help reduce anxiety and sensory overload for our Autistic shoppers. An informed understanding of the difficulties or differences relating to Autism has helped us in implementing in these changes, which is why the training programme was so crucial. We can now confidently open Abbey Centre to the to the 30,000 individuals and families living with Autism in Northern Ireland that previously may have been excluded.’
Steps taken by Abbey Centre include the addition of an Accessibility section to the Abbey Centre website, featuring downloadable Pre-Visit Guides, Visual Story and Mall Map; The introduction of a regular Sensory Friendly Shopping Hour every Monday 5pm – 6pm and Sensory Pack featuring ICE (in case of emergency) wristbands available to hire from Customer Services.
Mark Stewart, Abbey Centre Manager said;
‘We are so happy to have achieved the Impact Award. We wish to make Abbey Centre a more ‘Autism friendly environment’ and hope that our changes make your Abbey Centre experience as relaxing and stress-free as possible.’
Frank Cullen, CEO of Mercury Security and Facilities Management, added;
‘We are delighted to have been involved with the Autism Impact Award at Abbey Centre. We recognise the importance of ensuring that Mercury Security and Facilities Management’s Security Officers are informed about the differences associated with autism and how to use this understanding to create a safe and pleasant shopping experience for all. We believe that the education delivered to our Security Officers through the workshop will aid them in recognising and understanding autism and therefore allow them to continue to deliver high standards of customer service.’
Abbey Centre is the first retail scheme in NI to have completed the training programme and achieved the Autism Impact Award.