Intu joins autism awareness scheme

Published:  10 June, 2016

Virtual reality brings autism awareness to UK shoppers

A new partnership has been launched between shopping centre owner intu and the National Autistic Society to create more autism friendly shopping centres across the UK. And to launch the scheme virtual reality has been used for the first time to increase the general public’s understanding of autism, with shoppers at intu Trafford Centre in Manchester donning headsets to experience a shopping centre visit from the perspective of an autistic child.

Recreating the sights and sounds of a shopping centre as experienced by someone on the autism spectrum, it is all part of work by the National Autistic Society and shopping centre owner intu to bring better support and awareness for autistic shoppers and their families.

The pioneering initiative which will now tour the UK at intu’s 15 shopping centres this summer uses virtual reality to take people inside the National Autistic Society’s viral film ‘Can you make it to the end?’ as it follows an autistic boy experiencing sensory overload on a shopping trip.

The launch marks intu Trafford Centre being recognised as the country’s first autism friendly shopping centre by the National Autistic Society’s new Autism Friendly Award. A range of supportive measures for autistic people including autism-friendly shopping centre guides, specially-designed alert cards and frontline staff training will be rolled out to all intu centres including intu Metrocentre and intu Lakeside in the next two years.

It is the latest event in the National Autistic Society’ ‘Too Much Information’ public awareness campaign, launched in April to increase public understanding of autism. The charity found that 50% of autistic people and their families sometimes or often don’t leave their homes because they are worried about negative and judgemental responses due to a lack of understanding of autism.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society said: “We launched our Too Much Information campaign in April because hundreds of thousands of autistic people are ending up isolated and lonely due to poor public understanding of autism. To help the public understand a little more about autism, we’re really excited to be the first charity using virtual reality to demonstrate what this aspect of autism can feel, see and sound like. Virtual reality is such a fantastic medium and we want to use it to help people identify with a young autistic boy who is having a crisis in a shopping centre.”

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