Hartlepool’s shopping centre and a toy store are backing the nationwide ‘Quiet Hour’ initiative to help people with autism.
Taking place every Saturday, Middleton Grange Shopping Centre will be turning down its music which will allow for a more calming environment.
The centre’s Entertainer store will also be turning off its music and loud demo products in a bid to make it a more relaxing and enjoyable place for shoppers affected by autism and other sensory impairments.
The designated ‘Quiet Hour’ will be held every Saturday, between 9am and 10am.
Centre manager Mark Rycraft said: “For our visitors who experience the world differently, coming to a busy centre with crowds of people, music and bright lights can be disorienting and overwhelming. It’s wonderful that we are able to take steps to ensure people can freely enjoy everything on offer here.
“Making simple adjustments to our surroundings opens up new opportunities for those with ‘silent’ disabilities to feel much more comfortable when out in public spaces.”
Gary Grant, founder and managing director of The Entertainer, said: “We continually look for ways to improve customer experience as it’s hugely important to us that all children feel comfortable in our stores and are able to explore the toys we have available.”
In line with this campaign, Middleton Grange Shopping Centre is partnering with Catcote School to launch a dedicated autism booklet which will be available to download from the its website.
It has been designed as a helpful guide for shoppers who are affected by autism and informs of designated quiet areas, places to eat and what they need to do if they lose their companion.
Mark said that it was important to keep raising awareness in helping Hartlepool increase its credentials as an autism-friendly town.
He added: “We’re at the heart of the community and are fully committed to making sure that our retail environment is as appealing as possible to all visitors.”