NAS Accredits Essex Shopping Centre
The accreditation by the UK's National Autistic Society (NAS) recognises the shopping centre's work in making shopping more accessible for people with autism spectrum conditions.
Working closely with the NAS, Axis Cleaning and Support Services, Axis Security, the shopping centre owner Ellandi and shopping centre manager Workman, The Mercury has introduced a number of initiatives over the past two years to improve the shopping experience for autistic customers.
Axis Group has been providing security, cleaning, support services and customer service training for the shopping centre since last year. Brad Halfacre, Deputy Contracts Manager for Axis Group at the Mercury, completed a training course with Workman to become an Autism Champion, and went on to train other staff members on site about how to manage a customer with autism in situations of distress, along with simple ways to communicate and improve their shopping experience.
“It’s great to be part of an organisation that focuses on spectrum and sensory conditions such as Autism,” he says. “The Centre has made a real commitment to making a difference to the lives of people with autism in the local area. We will continue to improve in any way we can to provide the best possible experience and all-inclusive environment for customers and visitors.”
Every Tuesday is a ‘sensory day’ at The Mercury, where the lights are turned down, the music is switched off or lowered and the hand driers are replaced with paper towels to create a calmer and more peaceful environment. In addition, the centre has published sensory visual guides and information for autistic visitors on its website. Staff have been trained to direct customers to calmer, quieter areas of the shopping centre that have been identified should they require somewhere with fewer sensory triggers.
Daniel Cadey, Autism Friendly Development Manager at the NAS, says: “We are delighted to see the adjustments that The Mercury has made for their autistic customers. We hope that many more shopping centres will follow their excellent example, then we will be a little bit closer to creating a world that supports and works for people with autism, their families and carers.”