How can my business be an ally?
“I am the Administrative Assistant for a new tourist attraction. Due to its popularity, the lineup can become quite long. We have received some comments from our guests on the autism spectrum that this hour-long line-up can be too much for them. We completely appreciate the impact that this wait time can have on these guests so we would like to find a solution to ease this pain for them and make their visit more enjoyable.
The general manager has discussed the option of having a certain day(s) of the week where we open an hour earlier than normal to serve guests who are unable to fully enjoy the experience when there are crowds & lineups. We are looking for a little bit of guidance on the above suggestion. Do you think this would be a helpful idea? If not, what would you suggest? If this is something that we do end up offering, do you have any suggestions on what we could call it or how to present it to our guests? We wanted to reach out to you guys in order to ensure that we are doing everything we can to help our community. Thank you very much for your time.”
I appreciate that you are reaching out to ask about how and why to provide supports for people on the autism spectrum and their families while they visit your business.
I do think that having altered hours could be a good thing to do. It’s a start that many places take. Many businesses that we’ve worked with provide alternative business hours for the neurodiverse community. During those hours, stores work to limit the sensory stimuli within the store environment. With less sensory stimuli and fewer people in the stores, community members can enjoy the activities at their own pace.
Creating visual or picture schedules with clear way-finding graphics and information is also helpful. Many individuals on the autism spectrum appreciate the ability to know what to expect and their way around ahead of time. Once created, you could add these to your websites.
The best way to start is to consult with your own team. Do you have any autistic employees? If so, involve them in the decisions you are making. Every person on the autism spectrum is unique so there is not a one size fits all for accommodations. The supports that you can offer as a business should be planned out and accessible for everyone. It should involve a person-centred approach. Equally important, your team needs to understand what they are able to consistently offer and why it might help someone. The best allies make accessibility and inclusion part of their work culture — it should start from within the staff. You may consider incorporating autism awareness and learning into your staff onboarding process and training. If accommodations and reasoning are built into staff culture, the location feels more inclusive.
If you’d like additional information, you could reach out to other businesses that have created accessible employment opportunities.
So, it comes back to what work you and your team are able to put in.
What AutismBC can do:
- We can host a community workshop with a team member, such as one of our Regional Coordinators, to learn their perspective on how you can provide accommodations.
- We could co-host an AutismBC Goes Event — These are community events where we give training to your team and then we bring people from the autism community for a visit.
Here are some resources or examples you could take a look at:
- We worked with Science World on a few “Sensory Friendly Mornings” and now it is a regular support that Science World provides for not only people on the spectrum, but people with other neurodiversity.
- Our Guest Blog on Sensory Friendly Solutions.
- A number of our contacts in shopping centres have also started Sensory-Friendly Shopping Time.
- I would highly recommend taking this professional development online learning module created by Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration in Autism (CIRCA)
I hope this is a good start,
Our team receives many questions from the autism community each week and we strive to support each and every one of them by empowering them with knowledge and our lived experiences. You can reach out to our team here if you have questions or concerns, or if you simply need some guidance and support.
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