Three Liverpool organisations have reached the finals of a brand new award scheme celebrating the work of the city’s many Autism Champions.
The new Champion of Champions award will to go the organisation which embodies the most positive, can-do and inclusive approach to the autism community. Campaigners are lobbying for Liverpool to be the UK’s leading autism-friendly city and since early 2016 have created 40 Champions across the region.
The finalists, chosen by a panel of judges, are, Everton Football Club, Tate, Liverpool and Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The winner will be announced at Merseyside-based charity Autism Together’s Rose Gold Gala Ball and Autism Gold Awards on Friday 2 November at The Shankly Hotel, Liverpool.
CEO of Autism Together, Robin Bush, said: “There are many schemes operating across the UK asking organisations to support autism awareness. Some ask for as little as an hour a year – just sixty short minutes of autism-friendly service from shops, restaurants and the like. This feels a little like tokenism.
“We are fiercely proud of Liverpool and the support of our Autism Champions because it takes dedication and commitment to join our scheme. All told, our 40 champions offer seven million minutes of autism-friendly service a year to the community. That’s what it takes to change attitudes and create a kinder, more tolerant society.”
Goodison Park experience
Everton has so far trained nearly 250 staff in autism awareness and employs stewards on the autism spectrum. The Club runs monthly sessions for children on the spectrum and is in the process of creating a sensory room at a nearby venue in which live matches can be streamed.
Kim Healey, People Director at Everton, said: “At Everton we pride ourselves on welcoming and accommodating all our supporters’ needs. We are fully committed to raising awareness and supporting the needs of any supporters with autism, both home and away, to make sure they feel part of the Everton family.
“We train all our relevant fan-facing staff with the knowledge, confidence and awareness to provide people on the spectrum with the support they need to enjoy the Goodison Park experience.”
Tate, Liverpool ensures its front of house staff are trained in autism awareness. It provides quiet spaces and ear defenders for those worried about loud noises. Easy-to-read guides and extra-clear signage ensure those with communication differences can enjoy their visit. There’s also a monthly quiet hour during which hand driers are turned off and drinks are served in paper cups to reduce noise.
Debbie Goldsmith, Curator of Early Years & Families at the museum, said: “We are very proud and hugely excited that Tate Liverpool has been nominated for a special award from the charity Autism Together. This nomination recognises the work that our staff have been championing to support autism awareness across the gallery.”
Liverpool John Lennon airport has trained over a quarter of its staff in autism awareness, with training still ongoing. It’s created an online guide to the airport and set-up a Butterfly scheme which allows a person with autism to by-pass queues and be helped through the security and passport control with assistance. They are currently working with an airline to introduce support for those with autism during a flight.
Christina Smith, Customer Services Executive at the airport, said: “We are proud to be working alongside an increasing number of organisations in the Liverpool City Region promoting Autism Awareness and we would like to thank Autism Together for supporting us on this journey. We offer familiarisation visits to the airport for individuals and families and offer practical advice and tips to help with planning as well as the journey itself.
“Around 3,000 colleagues working at the airport, many with family members with Hidden Disabilities are true shining stars. Using personal experience and training, they look out for the Butterfly Flyer to assist passengers as much or as little as required. Autism touches so many of us personally. If we can assist an individual or a family to be able to travel, then we have helped them achieve something remarkable.”