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Are You An Autism Friendly Business?

Monday 18 November @ ECOS Centre, Ballymena

Businesses hear how ‘simple steps’ can help them become Autism Friendly and welcoming to all

Businesses across the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area have heard about the simple and effective steps they can take to make their services welcoming and inclusive to customers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) conditions.

Speakers at the workshop  included the Northern Health and Social Care Trust’s Head of Community Wellbeing Hugh Nelson, Mary McCann from Ulster Supported Employment and Learning (USEL), Sean Hanna and David Dempster from the NOW Group.

Employers from the local area heard how creating awareness among their staff about the condition was key to providing a customer experience which is positive and inclusive.

Council’s Skills and Entrepreneurship Manager Rhonda Lynn said: “We’re bringing together a collective of support through our partners in NOW and USEL, and in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, to help our local businesses become more ASD friendly.

“The NOW Group’s JAM Card is very well known throughout Northern Ireland. Our customer facing businesses, like the Ecos Centre Café, are very welcoming for all customers and they have the JAM Card initiative in place, as we do across Council facilities including The Gobbins and our Tourist Information Centres.”

Northern Trust spokesperson Hugh Nelson said: “We believe there are a number of small, minor adjustments that businesses can make that will make their services much more accessible to people with autism.

“We also believe that people with autism are very good employees to have, with attributes including creativity, the ability to focus, reliability and dependability.”

USEL’s ESF Project Manager Mary McCann said: “The main challenges that people with autism and their carers face are acceptance and understanding, and that is the main thing we would like to reinforce today.

“As a parent of a child with autism, I wouldn’t change a hair on his head, but I would change the world he lives in. That world relies on people being aware of the challenges those individuals face, accepting those, and making some adjustments to make the world a better place.”

Sean Hanna from NOW Group said the organisation provides services and support to 1,000 participants, around 600 of whom live with a learning disability and 400 who have a ‘neuro diverse condition’.

“Neuro diversity falls into different categories, so it could be people with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia and Tourette’s”, he explained.

“We help employers make reasonable adjustments, as well as helping with the transition of employees into the workplace. We’re on hand to offer suitable advice, so we like to see ourselves as a bridge between the employer and the employee.”


For more information on steps to becoming an autism friendly environment please contact