Shops, restaurants and leisure facilities should do more to become autism-friendly, according to the results of an online poll (8th May 2012).

The poll of 250 people, conducted by autism and learning disability service provider Dimensions as part of Autism Awareness Month, found that restaurants are the place most people would like to see made more accessible, with 32% of people marking it as their preferred choice.Supermarkets received 27% of the vote followed by leisure centres (17%), shops (10%), theatres (9%), events such as fireworks displays or sporting events (4%) and banks with 1%.Dimensions will use the survey results to help advise businesses on the types of environmental factors that people with autism may find challenging and what simple but effective alterations they can make to become more accessible.

Dimensions' autism lead, executive director of practice development, Lisa Hopkins, said: “Accessibility is not just about wheelchairs and ramps. This is clearly something people feel passionately about. 

 “Many poll contributors called for extra training for staff working in services but not just in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors; doctors surgeries, hospitals, dental practices and schools  were all given as examples of places that people had found challenging because of a lack of understanding from staff. With one contributor  describing their  3-hour stay in a hospital’s busy A&E waiting room as ‘turning a trauma into a crisis’ and another commenting that a major concern for them remains how their 13-year-old autistic son would be treated by staff should he need hospitalisation. 

 “Hairdressers, swimming pools, shoe shops and libraries were amongst some of the other suggestions made with one person calling for larger tourist attractions in the capital to offer special autism-friendly events for autistic adults and children; London Zoo and The Natural History Museum were two recommendations. This call for action was reinforced by the mother of an autistic boy who said that they had to ‘live in a bubble unless there is an autism-friendly event that suits – of which there are not many.’”