In recent years, AsIAm is seeing a growing number of organisations, businesses and communities strive to become more “autism-friendly” by either making adjustments to their existing services to make them more accessible to autistic people, or by creating specific services which aim to address the autism community’s support needs.
As an autistic-led charity who advocates for the autistic community and passionately believes in making goods and services accessible to autistic people, AsIAm welcomes that organisations, businesses and communities in Ireland are taking steps towards autism acceptance and understanding. However, we know that many more businesses or organisations throughout Ireland also want to become autism-friendly, but may not know where to begin. Some organisations may also be afraid that making mistakes on their autism-friendly journey would negatively impact any future steps they take towards including autistic people.
AsIAm supports many businesses and organisations across Ireland on their autism-friendly journey. We recognise that becoming Autism-friendly will look different for every business and organisation. Hence we believe that setting short, medium and long-term goals are important benchmarks for measuring your business or organisation’s progress on the journey to becoming autism-friendly.
Central to our Accreditation is a “Charter of Inclusion” between AsIAm and your organisation. The Charter sets our standards for supporting the autism community, and offers practical measures that your business or organisation can put into place. Each Charter is transparent and tailored to your organisation’s needs and objectives. Autistic people and their family members can access the Charter so they know how they will be supported when they visit your business or organisation
We at AsIAm believe that becoming autism-friendly is a journey, rather than a destination. AsIAm will accredit your business annually on the basis of putting in place a standard of support outlined in the Charter of Inclusion. We will measure your organisation’s progress in putting measures set out in the Charter into action, and we will review further steps taken to support your ongoing commitment to supporting the autism community.
What does your organisation need to do to receive Autism-Friendly Accreditation?
Whilst every organisation is different, AsIAm requires that each business or organisation we work with takes a number of steps to receive Autism-Friendly Accreditation, in line with our Autism Accessibility principles. These include:
- Judgement and Attitude: The most important action any organisation can take to reach out to the autism community is to create a whole-of-organisation culture of understanding and acceptance. As a result, we require businesses and organisations to undertake staff awareness training about autism and to educate the public around autistic people’s access needs. Training can be provided in-person or online, depending on the organisation’s size. We will also support your organisation to develop materials that educate the public on how to support autistic people when they access your services.
- Sensory Processing: Identifying environmental barriers to participation can pose difficulties for people who are not autistic. Our team will support your organisation to conduct an audit of your sensory environment and can help you identify measures you can take to make the environment more accessible to autistic people. Many adjustments AsIAm recommends, like creating a quiet space or reducing background noise, are cost-effective, easily attainable, and people-friendly – all recommendations are on a comply-or-explain basis, and your organisation can commit to meeting the Charter’s more complex goals over a longer period of time.
- Predictability & Control: Autistic people can find it hard to know what to expect in social situations, which can cause significant anxiety and stress. We support our partners to develop materials which support autistic people to access your services and empower autistic people to manage their experience of accessing your goods and services.
- Communication: Autistic people often communicate in different ways to neurotypical people (or people who are not autistic). These differences might range from how a person uses and understands language, body language and facial expression to which communication mode works best for the person. Our team will support you in reviewing and making adjustments to your communication practices to ensure that autistic people can have an enriching experience when engaging with your business or organisation.
We require that your organisation takes certain actions, like undertaking staff awareness training, are taken before we accredit your organisation. Your organisation can commit to taking more specific measures aimed at addressing the autism community’s access needs over a longer period. Every organisation will also have unique opportunities to support the autism community and our organisation will work to identify these opportunities and incorporate them into your Charter. AsIAm also recognises that some organisations will have a much deeper interaction with autistic people than others. As a result our expectation of what is committed to will depend on the kind of service being offered.
Our General Accreditation is awarded to shops, hospitality businesses like hotels, bars and restaurants, retail, and leisure services. We also develop bespoke awards/programmes for a number of specific industries such as universities, schools, early years settings, disability services or businesses who have large-scale operations.
Our awards are based on working in partnership with an organisation to create an impactful and mutually beneficial offering for the autism community and service. The first step is easy – get in touch!
How will AsIAm support me?
Our team will support you on your autism-friendly journey by:
- Developing your Charter of Inclusion and supporting its implementation
- Providing Autism Awareness Training to staff
- Reviewing your organisation’s actions and your long-term commitments
- Awarding the Accreditation once certain objectives agreed by both parties are met
- Supporting your organisation’s communication of your commitment to becoming autism-friendly to the public, including media appearances agreed by both parties
- Ongoing implementation support
- Mystery shopping, if applicable.
- Support with your organisation’s Sensory Audit, if applicable
- Consultancy services to advance your autism-friendly measures, as required
The level of support, over and above the initial award phase will depend on an organisation’s project budget, and the type of supports your organisation will offer to the autism community.
What are the costs involved?
Due to differences in size and scope with every organisation’s Accreditation project, considering the type and volume of training, the number of outlets involved and the level of AsIAm consultancy time required, AsIAm provides individual quotes for our Accreditation service.
Becoming autism-friendly can be a cost-effective way of making your business more accessible and inclusive to the public. AsIAm will work with your organisation to develop an Accreditation plan tailored to your organisation’s budget and overall objectives, and which reflects the value making your practices autism-friendly will bring to your customers, your employees and your organisation’s reputation.
Benefits to your organisation of accessing our Accreditation programme:
Access a vast untapped talent pool of autistic people: Autistic people have many desirable qualities that employers want. However, a major UK study from the National Autistic Society showed that just 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment. AsIAm will support your organisation to tap into a vast pool of autistic talent, reach out to an ever-expanding pool of autistic clients and customers and become a market leader in autism inclusion.
Reaching out to autistic people makes business sense: Reaching out to autistic people is about more than doing the right thing – it also makes business sense. Businesses who hire autistic people show a proven Return on Investment (ROI), which increases their organisation’s productivity, sustainability and profitability. Businesses who attract autistic customers also improves your reputation as a socially responsible and progressive business or organisation to clients, customers and the public.
Embracing neurodiversity creates more responsive and innovative organisations: When autistic people and neurodivergent people are appreciated as valued members of teams with a wide range of skills, they can stimulate innovation, and help your business better respond to changing market conditions by increasing employee engagement and productivity.
Autism-friendly measures are people-friendly measures: As an organisation, you may already have autistic or neurodivergent staff, clients or customers but may not know it as they may not feel comfortable disclosing their condition to you. By undertaking our Autism Accreditation programme and making the suggested changes in the Charter of Inclusion, your organisation can tap into the power of neurodiversity to increase staff and customer engagement, boost productivity and help you reach more clients or customers. This also encourages neurodivergent staff to be more comfortable to be themselves at work and be even more successful in their work. It also encourages neurodivergent customers to shop with your business, or access your services more often.
Autism-friendly communication makes your organisation more accessible to the public and increases customer engagement Providing accessible information formats (like Social Stories, Plain English or Easy-to-Read) are excellent ways for your business to reach autistic people and the wider public. Having clear communication channels signals to customers that you are an inclusive organisation which welcomes a wide diversity of customers. Becoming autism-friendly will help your organisation increase customer engagement and trust, broaden your customer base, and build closer client and customer relationships.
What organisations are already accredited by AsIAm as autism-friendly?
- Nationl Gallery of Ireland
- Fota Wildlife Park
- Tayto Park
- A number of Library Services
- Dublin City University
- Keane’s CarePlus Pharmacies