Find out what Autism Hour is, when it's taking place, which shops and businesses are taking part and answers to other common questions by clicking on the links below.

1. What is The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour?
2. How can autistic people and their families take part in Autism Hour?
3. Which shops and businesses participated in the National Autistic Society Autism Hour?
4. How will shops and businesses provide a better service for autistic people and their families during National Autistic Society Autism Hour?
5. Were autistic people involved in deciding the criteria for making shops and businesses autism-friendly during Autism Hour?
6. How were staff trained?
7. Can we get more shops signed up?
8. Why is it only an hour?
9. Why are you running the National Autistic Society Autism Hour as part of the Too Much Information campaign?

1. What is The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour?

Public spaces can be overwhelming for an autistic person trying to deal with too much information. These places can be crowded, unpredictable, loud and bright, often made worse if some members of the public don’t understand the autistic person. 28% of autistic people have been asked to leave a public space because of behaviour associated with their autism.

Many autistic people and their families give up trying to use the shops and services that most people use every day. They close themselves off, and their world shrinks. This is why 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated. We know this needs to change.

Quiet hours are shopping hours specifically for autistic people and their families. They are a way to create a regular opportunity for people to shop in a more accessible environment, where they know their behaviour will not be judged and they can shop and access the same experiences that other people take for granted.

As part of Too Much Information, our campaign to increase public understanding of autism, we organised the world’s first mass-participation autism quiet hour. We want autistic people to experience the changes they need to see, and help people in the UK, as well as shops and businesses, better understand autism and the change they can make.

2. How can autistic people and their families take part in Autism Hour?

Following the success of our first National Autistic Society Autism Hour, we're planning another mass-participation event next year. In the meantime, you can get involved with the campaign by encouraging your local shops and businesses to sign up to participate. They can register their interest on the website and we’ll get in touch with them for next year's event.

3. Which shops and businesses can participate in the National Autistic Society's Autism Hour?

This year, around 4,000 shops, cafés, restaurants and services signed-up to participate in the first-ever Autism Hour. You can see who participated on the map

Registration for 2017 closed on 15 September, but shops and businesses can register their interest for next year

4. How will shops and businesses provide a better service for autistic people and their families during National Autistic Society Autism Hour?

Autism Hour does not mean that the business will be perfectly autism-friendly for the hour, but it does mean they’re making some changes to make it more autism-friendly than normal. These include:

  • Turning down music and other noise: overwhelming noise is a common barrier to autistic people accessing shops. Where possible, in-store tannoy announcements and other controllable noise should be reduced.
  • Dimming the lights: lighting, particularly fluorescent strip lighting, can be overwhelming for autistic people. Wherever possible, while maintaining a safe premises, lights will be dimmed or switched off.
  • Sharing information about autism with employees: we don't expect everyone to be an autism expert, but we believe everyone should understand autism. The National Autistic Society has provided information about autism to help staff make each customer’s experience a positive one.
  • Telling people about our Too Much Information campaign: we ask that participating shops and businesses help increase the public's understanding of autism by sharing our Too Much Information campaign with their customers.

Some of the participants in Autism Hour are not able to follow all four criteria – the main exception is reducing the lighting. This is because lighting for large chain stores or businesses is often controlled centrally . Where this is the case, we have tried to make clear on our website what customers can expect from these venues during their Autism Hour and have encouraged each retailer to do the same by providing  posters or other materials to explain what they are doing to their customers.

5. Were autistic people involved in deciding the criteria for making shops and businesses autism-friendly during Autism Hour?

When deciding the criteria for our Autism Friendly Award, we spoke to autistic people and their families to find out which adaptations and adjustments would be most beneficial to them. By looking at the common themes in their responses, we identified the most helpful adjustments for autistic people. We have used these broad criteria for National Autistic Society Autism Hours. We also spoke to businesses who have already conducted autism quiet hours to determine the most impactful changes they made.

We recognise that these changes cannot make the perfect environment for every autistic person, but believe they provide important first steps for businesses to understand what’s involved in being more autism-friendly.

6. How were staff trained?

The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour is about encouraging shops and other venues to take the first steps in making the world more autism-friendly by making small changes which will make the biggest difference for the most autistic people.

We’ve provided information about autism and top tips for supporting autistic customers. This advice was developed through years of working with autistic people, and in partnership with autistic people. Participating companies have shared this information with their staff to make sure they’re able to provide the best possible service during Autism Hour.

7. Can we get more shops signed up?

During our first ever Autism Hour, we got in touch with as many businesses as possible – both directly and through our supporters and branches reaching out to them. We are thrilled that around 4,000 shops signed up to hold an Autism Hour. We're currently getting feedback from everyone so we can increase the number of shops and other businesses signing up in the future.

8. Why is it only an hour?

We recognise that this is just the first step. All change needs to start somewhere. By establishing The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour, we hope to make it easier for businesses to test out more autism-friendly practices, and learn about how positive they can be – both for the business and for autistic people and their families. We hope they will then want to learn more about how they can be more autism-friendly all year round by taking on the Autism Friendly Award. Our aim is always to work with businesses and individuals in the long-term to make the UK as autism-friendly as possible.

9. Why are you running the National Autistic Society Autism Hour as part of the Too Much Information campaign?

The Too Much Information campaign is all about getting the public to better understand autism, and make the small changes which reduce the overload autistic people can face when they’re out – and the negative judgement from some members of the public who don’t understand.

Businesses can play a significant role in making this kind of change. They can do this both by making small adjustments to their business to make it less overwhelming for autistic people, and by doing this in a public way to help their customers understand why these kind of changes are important for autistic people.