Vangarde Shopping Park, York has joined the National Autistic Society’s 2019 Autism Hour campaign. Shops at the park will take part between 11am and 12pm on Sunday 6 October.

The stores and restaurants at Vangardewill take simple steps to create a more autism-friendly experience. They have committed to share information about autism with staff and customers, whilst changing the shopping environment by turning down music and tannoy announcements (where possible) and dimming bright lights.

Debs O’Donnell, Centre Manager says: “I’m really proud of our stores and restaurants for supporting the event this year. We’re always trying to improve the shopping and dining experience for our customers and hope that these small steps will start to make a difference and raise awareness about the challenges autistic people can sometimes face.”

There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, as well as three million family members and carers. Those with autism often find social and public situations difficult and can struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience. It can make busy public places like shops overwhelming.

Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “Our research has found that 64% of autistic people avoid the shops and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. This is not good enough.

“Autistic people represent a huge part of our society – around 1 in 100 people in the UK. They and their families want to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else. But many find the crowds, noise and unpredictability of our high streets completely overwhelming and end up avoiding them altogether.

Autism Hours are designed to show businesses the simple steps they can take to improve the shopping experience for their autistic customers – and their families.