A first for Falkirk’s Howgate

The Howgate's Suzanne Arkinson, left, and Margaret Foy join Nick Ward of the National Autistic Society Scotland
The Howgate's Suzanne Arkinson, left, and Margaret Foy join Nick Ward of the National Autistic Society Scotland

Falkirk’s Howgate has become the first shopping centre in Scotland to be officially recognised as autism-friendly.

The High Street facility achieved the National Autistic Society Scotland’s Autism Friendly Award after shopping centre staff took the time to learn about autism and subsequently make a number of adjustments to the way their working practices to ensure autistic visitors can access and enjoy the shops and services it offers.

The Howgate has also introduced regular sensory shopping days, and created autism-friendly visitor guides to help autistic customers prepare in advance for their visit.

Nick Ward, National Autistic Society Scotland director said: “We are delighted to see the adjustments The Howgate Shopping Centre has made for its autistic customers. Around 58,000 people are autistic in Scotland – this means they see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way, which can make shopping a source of great anxiety.

“By seeking external expertise, training staff and acting on the feedback of its autistic customers, the Howgate has become a more inclusive environment and shown a real commitment to making a big difference to the lives of autistic people.”

Howgate marketing manager Margaret Foy said: “We’ve worked hard over the past two years and listened to feedback from our autistic customers so we could create a more accessible shopping experience. The response to these small changes has been overwhelmingly positive.”