Liverpool organisations large and small – from Fitness Hanger and Dedicated Blue Collar Boxing to NatWest bank, Remploy and the Tate Liverpool – gathered at the Malmaison hotel on the waterfront last week to sign the Autism Charter.
The charter, written by people on the autism spectrum, asks organisations to train their staff in autism awareness and make their venues more autism friendly by making small changes, such as introducing clearer signage. Once the charter is signed, they become official members of the Liverpool Autism Champions scheme.
More than twenty organisations across the city have already signed the charter and joined the scheme and more than 600 workers have had autism awareness training including staff at Liverpool John Lennon airport, Liverpool One shopping centre, National Museums Liverpool, Mersey Fire and Rescue Service and Everton FC.
The Liverpool Autism Champions project was launched in April 2016. It’s run by campaigners from Wirral-based charity Autism Together and Liverpool social enterprise Autism Adventures. Working in partnership, the team has delivered more than 1,200 hours of training in its bid to make Liverpool one of the UK’s first autism-friendly cities.
Chief Executive of Autism Together, Robin Bush, said, “It’s a real credit to this city that organisations of all shapes and sizes are supporting our project. In the end it’s all about people and the difference we can make to lives. We’re getting glowing reports from the families we support about their visits to our champions.”
Garry Fortune, general Manager of Malmaison Liverpool, which hosted the ceremony, said, “The team at Mal Liverpool were extremely proud to host the Autism Charter ceremony event and were thrilled to be given the title of Autism Champions. The training we received was so meaningful and delivered with such passion straight from the heart, that my team are still talking about it weeks later. Together I’m sure we can make this wonderful city autism friendly, and we at Malmaison will help and support in any way possible.”
Andrea Nixon, executive director of Tate Liverpool, said, “We’re dedicated to making our venue an inclusive and welcoming space for everyone. We’re delighted to have signed the charter and formalised our commitment as an institution. We’re constantly reviewing our access policy and to date have introduced quiet rooms for families needing down time and ear defenders for those sensitive to noise. We’ve also trained 30 front-of-house staff. Our regular autism-friendly activities have also proven popular, with another one planned for the February half-term.”
Autism Together and Autism Adventures say action is needed as such a significant number of people are on the autism spectrum – one in every hundred or around 700,000 nationally – and many are excluded from their own communities through lack of understanding and support.