St. Enoch Centre launches quiet room for autistic people

Pictured: Fran Meile, Corporate Fundraiser, Scottish Autism; Anne Ledgerwood, General Manager, St. Enoch Centre and Wallace, Scottish Autism mascot.

Glasgow’s St. Enoch Centre has opened a dedicated space to support autistic people and those with learning disabilities and sensory conditions within a busy shopping environment. The launch of its quiet and safe room is a first for the city’s shopping centres.  

Over the past 18 months, St. Enoch Centre has been working with support organisations and carefully assessing the requirements of customers with specialist needs, including autistic people, who can sometimes find the crowds and sensory aspects associated with shopping to be overwhelming.

Careful consideration and planning has gone into the quiet space which is a small room that has been simply furnished and decorated in soothing colours, designed to provide a quiet sanctuary where those individuals can take time out with their families. 

The opening of the new space is the latest development from the centre, which recently held quiet sessions to cater for people with specialist needs at its popular Christmas Grotto. Key members of customer facing staff at St. Enoch’s have also undergone training with Scottish Autism as part of the centre’s commitment to provide an enjoyable shopping experience for all customers. The training was designed to ensure all staff have an understanding of autism and looked at key characteristics of autism, different ways of thinking as well as the impact of senses. 

Joining St. Enoch staff to launch the quiet and safe room were representatives from Scottish Autism including Wallace, the charity’s mascot. Dedicated to enabling autistic people to lead full and enriched lives, Scottish Autism has been selected as the centre’s 2018 charity partner. 

As part of the partnership, St. Enoch hopes to help raise awareness as well as funds to support the charity’s range of services which include Autism Advisors as well as its online programme, Right Click. Funds will also go to support Scottish Autism’s telephone Advice Line which received over 1,900 calls last year, half of which were from the West of Scotland. The centre hopes to learn from the charity to continuously improve its services and ensure it meets the varied needs of different shoppers. 

Advisors from Scottish Autism will be in-centre on the weekend of the 3 and 4 of February as part of the launch. 

Commenting, Karen Wilson, Fundraising Manager at Scottish Autism, said: “We are delighted to be chosen as St. Enoch Centre’s charity partner for 2018. This is our 50th anniversary year which is a fantastic time to work in partnership with the centre staff to raise awareness of autism, and raise funds to support our activities. The development of the new quiet and safe room will provide a relaxed environment for autistic people and their families as bright lights, music and smells in a shopping centre can be overwhelming. 

“This new initiative, along with the autism awareness training we are providing for the centre’s staff, is a really positive development in enhancing the lives of autistic people and those with learning disabilities and sensory conditions.” 

General Manager at St. Enoch Centre, Anne Ledgerwood, commented: “We understand that shoppers have different needs and for many individuals and families the environment can be quite overwhelming, so to be able to offer a space for people to take some time out has been a goal of ours for a long time. 

“A lot of planning and consideration has gone into the launch of the facilities but we understand that we are still in the early stages and we would be grateful for any feedback from customers using the services. 

“We are delighted to announce Scottish Autism as our charity partner for this year and are looking forward to helping support such a fantastic cause while sharing important messages about Autism. The services, support and assistance Scottish Autism offers individuals and families throughout Scotland is fantastic and we are excited to work with them, using their skills and knowledge to help shape our services so that they effectively meet the needs of our different shoppers.”

The launch of the quiet and safe space supports Glasgow City Council in its ambition to make Glasgow the first autism-friendly city in the UK and key members of staff from the centre have been working with the council, attending Autism friendly workshops and focus groups as part of the council’s development. The wider city plans include initially developing parts of Glasgow with high footfall into autism-friendly areas. 

Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and City Convener for Inclusive Economic Growth, said: “I am delighted to see the creation of a quiet and safe room at St. Enoch Centre. The centre has been a great supporter and partner in our efforts to make the city centre autism-friendly.  I am sure the new room will be a fantastic asset for both the centre and Glasgow, making a trip here even more attractive for the people of Glasgow and our visitors.” 

The quiet and safe space will be open seven days a week during the centre’s opening hours. When using the room for the first time, customers must register at customer services on the first floor. Advanced registrations can be taken by calling 0141 204 3900. 

The Scottish Autism advisors will be in-centre from 10am-2pm on Saturday 3 February and Sunday 4 February.