September 2, 2019

Fota Wildlife Park first to get autism-friendly accreditation

Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork has become the first major visitor attraction in the country to receive an autism-friendly accreditation from AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity.

The award comes following a period of training to assist autistic people and their families visiting the attraction and the development of an autism inclusion charter which makes short, medium and long-term commitments to autism accessibility.

Understanding communication, predicting what will happen next, managing the sensory environment, and other people’s attitudes can all pose challenges for autistic people.

Simple changes to how things work, such as clearer communication and providing quiet spaces, can make the experience easier and allow autistic people to fully participate.

AsIAm supports organisations in making these changes through its autism-friendly accreditation Scheme.

Roisin FitzGerald, marketing manager of Fota Wildlife Park, said they consider this a major step to further improve the experience of visitors living with ASD at Fota Wildlife Park.

AsIAm have provided training for our core public-facing staff and have performed an environmental evaluation and audited the 100-acre visitor attraction.

“AsIAm have provided extremely helpful, insightful and practical solutions and suggestions in improving the quality of the visit for our visitors in the autism community — such as creating a sensory map, providing complimentary earbuds, inclusion of a social story and soundbites on the website and training in recognising the needs of visitors who may experience sensory issues.”

Adam Harris, founder and chief executive of AsIAm, said their autism-friendly accreditation is an achievable but challenging designation to receive.

“It requires real changes to how things work in terms of the sensory environment, promotional materials and staff attitude.

Fota Wildlife Parks journey towards accreditation shows a real and genuine effort to be universally inclusive.”

Original story on Irish Examiner – By Olivia Kelleher

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