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The autism-friendly shopping experience

Helen Drury, corporate responsibility manager at intu

Our aim is to put a smile on the face of all our customers, with opportunities for friends and families to come and shop, eat, drink and socialise and enjoy compelling experiences that surprise and delight.

But for the one in 100 people in the UK with autism, we know that a trip to vibrant and popular places such as a shopping centre can be less than an enjoyable experience. In fact, as part of their Too Much Information campaign the National Autistic Society has produced this short video which illustrates just how overwhelming the sights, sounds and smells of a shopping centre visit are for someone with the condition.

2.8 million families in the UK are affected by autism and as the owner some of the UK’s largest and most popular shopping centres, we’re taking time to understand how we can provide people living with this condition with places where they feel welcomed and safe.

As part of this work we’ve formed new partnerships with the National Autistic Society and a Manchester based charity Together Trust, to create the UK’s first autism friendly shopping centre at intu Trafford Centre which is transforming the way our staff interact with and support families impacted by autism.

Every staff member at intu Trafford Centre now receives training to both better support customers affected by autism and raise awareness around the condition with other shoppers and our tenants. We’ve also helped to produce autism-friendly guides that help customers during every stage of their visit with us, with specially designed cards that they can use at their discretion to quickly explain to our staff or a member of the public that they have autism.  

As a result of this programme, we’re pleased to see seen a significant reduction in customer complaints from people with autism and have received many compliments from customers for the efforts we’ve made to make our centres autism friendly. One customer, whose son has recently been diagnosed with autism told us that “access to resources like this is amazing” and it “helps more than ever can be told.”

At intu we’re passionate about making sure that our centres are accessible to all, and we're really proud of the work the team at intu Trafford Centre has done so far and look forward to rolling out similar programmes across the rest of our centres.