Eldon Square has become the first shopping centre in the North East to be awarded the Autism Acceptance Gold Award by the North East Autism Society (NEAS) charity for its outstanding autism acceptance efforts.
Based in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, Eldon Square has worked closely with NEAS since 2017 to create a more accessible and welcoming environment for autistic people whilst shopping in the centre.
The NEAS’ Autism Acceptance Gold Award recognises the partnership between Eldon Square and NEAS and the improvement it has led to creating a better experience for autistic customers.
As part of their collaboration, Eldon Square has introduced monthly shopping Quiet Hours. Taking place the first Tuesday from 10am to 11am and following Saturday of the month, from 9am to 10am, the centre takes simple steps such as dimming lights where possible, and turning down music to provide a more autism-friendly environment.
Alongside the Quiet Hours, the centre has also assigned three Autism Champions, who work closely with the autism community to better understand their needs and priorities for the centre. As a result of this, the centre has introduced sensory bags, which are designed to improve the customer experience for autistic children and young people. The backpacks include egg timers, sunglasses, a variety of visual symbols, fidget toys, and autism guides, and are available for hire at the centre.
Tania Kelly, Marketing Manager at Eldon Square said: “It is incredible to see what has been achieved through our partnership with NEAS. The Gold award is a huge accolade for the team and all their efforts invested in this partnership.
“In Eldon Square, customer comfort and satisfaction are at the forefront of everything we do, and we always strive to provide the best shopping experience for all. So, we are delighted to learn that the changes and processes, that we have implemented are making a difference for our autistic customers.”
NEAS Family Development Manager, Kerrie Highcock, “The award is more than a tick box it’s a journey, and Eldon Square embraced that.
“It’s fantastic to see local businesses adapting their practices and taking into account the sensory needs and differences of autistic and/or neurodivergent individuals. Some of the changes they’ve made, like introducing sensory bags, really can make such a difference to the lives of many families across the North East.”
Further changes introduced by the centre include providing staff with training on how to support autistic people in the centre and relaunching the sunflower lanyard scheme for hidden disabilities.