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In this weeks blog we hear from our Specialist Autism Awareness Trainer, Debbie Austin, who tells us about her recent visit to the Regional Heritage Conference. Debbie enlightened the attendees, who all worked in the heritage sector, about the importance of accessibility and inclusivity in their museums and heritage settings.

In September I had the opportunity to attend the Regional Heritage Conference at Newark Civil War Museum with my colleague Kevin. Our remit was to talk about autism friendly environments and the areas employers and organisation’s need to consider. Many different organisations and museums attended. We were one of the few attendees who were non museum. Anita, who helped to organise this event, supported us on the day and made us feel very welcome. I have to say I was distracted by the beautiful and historic Palace theatre and that became my point of retreat in times of overload.

After lunch I was part of a fizzer event, which simply meant I had to speak about a topic of interest for five minutes. I chose autism in women and girls which is for many reasons a special interest of mine. I decided to tell a story of my early years and my long standing interest in history, historical houses and childhood haunts, usually museums and stately homes.

With the blinding stage lights in my eyes I proceeded and before I knew it, time was up. It was then time for the workshops, in which I delivered a short presentation on what could be the challenges autistic people face when visiting or working at their premises. Areas such as lighting, decoration, sound levels and signage are the things to consider and potential issues. Our message throughout the session was to enable delegates to reflect on their own environment and ways in which it could be adapted to be more Autism friendly.

If I could sum up the key message from the workshop it would be Accessibility and Inclusivity is key to any autism friendly environment. Small changes can make a huge difference to autistic people. Detailed research has shown that if your environment works well for autistic individuals, it will also have the added benefit of working well for neurotypical individuals and people with other conditions and disabilities.

We want to thank Anita and her colleagues for supporting us on the day, we really enjoyed the event and Anita responded with

“Thank you very much for your brilliant Fizzer on ‘Autism in Women and Girls’ and excellent Breakout Session on ‘Creating Autism Friendly Environments’ at the Regional Heritage Conference yesterday. Both were really illuminating and inspiring and a lot of people spoke to me afterwards about how much they had enjoyed them and how much they had learned. It will be great to build on this with the training that we are doing with Autism EM in Northamptonshire and Newark”

Debbie Austin