Autism campaigners met the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, and Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, last week to discuss the council’s aim of making the city 'autism aware and autism friendly'.
They also delivered over 40 letters addressed to the mayor from autistic people living in and around the area explaining the barriers they face in everyday life and how many of these could be overcome by improved awareness and understanding of autism.
The campaigners included autistic people, parents, carers and representatives from our Bristol and Avon branches. They talked to the Mayor about our Too Much Information campaign and encouraged him to work with the charity and take advantage of their expertise to open up the city for autistic people.
This could include raising awareness of our Autism Friendly Award among local businesses, working with the Bristol Autism Forum to help implement the local autism strategy and meeting face-to-face with more autistic people and their families to hear more about their lives, challenges and successes.
More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. This means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense, way to other people. Autistic people can find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which means they can feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information’, particularly in public places like shopping centres.
Our research suggests that autistic people and families often face ‘tuts’, judgemental stares and disapproving noises when they’re out in public. This means that, over time, they avoid going to places they might feel overwhelmed or judged, and become more and more isolated. By the time autistic people reach adulthood their world can look very small, with over 70% of autistic people and their families saying they feel socially isolated.
Henry Barnes, our lead campaigner for the area, said: “It’s wonderful that Bristol City Council want to make the city autism-friendly. It was good to have the opportunity to discuss this with the mayor and we hope to work with him to turn this laudable aim into a reality, and thereby increase opportunities for autistic people in the city. We're currently running our biggest ever public understanding campaign and recently launched our own Autism Friendly Award. We've already helped organisations like Specsavers and Gatwick Airport to become autism friendly and hope to work with shops, restaurants and other businesses in Bristol.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We are determined to make Bristol a better place for people on the autism spectrum to live and I welcomed the meeting with The National Autistic Society to discuss how this can be done. We are already working with a range of partners to improve the experiences of people on the autism spectrum and this is an ongoing process. I will make sure officers get copies of the letters I have received so that any new suggestions can be considered.”
Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, said: “If everyone had just a basic understanding of autism, it could transform the lives of the more than 1 in 100 autistic people in the UK, and their families. It would allow them to go to shops, the cinema and work in the way other people take for granted. That’s why I fully support the campaign to make Bristol an autism-friendly city. I committed myself to this as a Parliamentary candidate and have made it a priority since becoming an MP. And I will continue to work with our Mayor, councillors, The National Autistic Society and local people to achieve it.”