Katie Smith, Visitor Services Manager for Bath & North East Somerset Council tells us about the impact that the Autism Friendly Award has had for visitors to the Roman Baths.

What types of changes you have made as part of the Award have had a positive impact on autistic people and their families?

Creating an information guide for people with autism, with an easy read version, has enabled families to plan their visit in advance and have no unwelcome surprises. Families have said that this has been the first time they have been able to visit an attraction as a family together. We now offer ear defenders, a pop-up tent for a refuge and fast track admission.

Loved the info for an autistic child. It was very helpful for me too.

Which changes that you made as part of the Award are you most proud of?

Training all our front-of-house staff in autism awareness - including the security team, visitor services assistants, the sales assistants, porters and supervisors, so that visitors with autism and their families will be offered the help and understanding they need before there is a problem.

My autistic daughter was incredibly difficult and all of the staff at the Baths were so understanding and patient. It really helped to have that reassurance from everyone – it’s not often her behaviour is met with such understanding, so please pass on my thanks!

What feedback have you had from autistic people and their families?

Following one of our Evening Explorers events with limited numbers for families with autism, we received this email:

“I wanted to thank you very much indeed for last night's visit to the Baths. I took my 12-year-old daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, not sure what we were going to experience. It's normally pretty tricky taking her out in public and I'm never sure if she will engage when she is distracted by crowds and the extra sensory overload she experiences in those situations. But last night was really special for us. There weren't many people there and the staff were extremely welcoming and enhanced our experience no end. Daisy especially loved the handling part, and was thrilled to be allowed to handle a real Roman coin! The place was beautiful at night, all lit up atmospherically. It will stay with us for the rest of our days as a really special evening.”

What difference has having the Autism Friendly Award made to your organisation?

The Award has enabled us to promote the site more widely as being really accessible. This has also led us to more training and becoming Dementia Friends, this has helped us to win the VisitEngland Gold Award for Inclusivity. Also, the Award has helped us to achieve the Council’s objectives to be more inclusive and promoting independence and positive lives for everyone.

How has the National Autistic Society supported your business or venue?

[The National Autistic Society] has given help with achieving the Autism Friendly Award, with advice on how we could develop staff skills to enable people with autism to have a successful visit, and the confidence to offer work placements to students with autism. This has been very successful. The awards presentation at the Roman Baths gave us lots of great publicity!