Howgate Shopping Centre staff photo - holding letters that spell 'autism' 

The Howgate Shopping Centre in Falkirk has become the very first shopping centre in Scotland to be certified as autism-friendly after achieving the National Autistic Society Scotland’s Autism Friendly Award. 

To achieve the award, staff learned about autism and made adjustments to the way they work to ensure autistic visitors can access and enjoy the shops and services it offers. This included carrying out a consultation with autistic customers to find out what they found challenging, and creating designated quiet spaces throughout the centre.

The centre has also introduced regular sensory shopping days, and created autism-friendly visitor guides to help autistic customers prepare in advance for their visit.

The Autism Friendly Award, administered by the National Autistic Society Scotland, recognises organisations that ensure autistic visitors and their families can access and enjoy their venues. 

Nick Ward, National Director at the National Autistic Society Scotland said: “We are delighted to see the adjustments that The Howgate Shopping Centre has made for its autistic customers. Around 58,000 people are autistic in Scotland. This means they see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way, which can make shopping a source of great anxiety.

“By seeking external expertise, training staff and acting on the feedback of its autistic customers, The Howgate Centre has become a more inclusive environment. In particular, by identifying quiet areas, running regular sensory shopping days and offering visual guides and resources to help support visitors, the Centre has shown a real commitment to making a big difference to the lives of autistic people in Falkirk.  

“We hope that many more shopping centres in Scotland will follow their excellent example, then we will be a little bit closer to creating a world that supports and works for autistic people, their families and carers.”     

Margaret Foy, Marketing Manager at The Howgate Shopping Centre said: “We are so pleased to be the very first shopping centre in Scotland to receive the National Autistic Society Scotland's Autism Friendly Award. 

“We’ve worked hard over the past two years and listened to feedback from our autistic customers so we could create a more accessible shopping experience. We’ve introduced a regular sensory shopping day on the first Sunday of each month, private Santa visits, and all of our staff have received autism awareness training. The response to these small changes has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been great to see our autistic customers and their families enjoying their shopping experience.” 

The National Autistic Society Scotland wants to support more organisations in Scotland to become autism-friendly. To find out more about the award, please visit our website. 

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