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As part of Bayfair Shopping Centre’s $115 million development, a quiet room is set to open for visitors with sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders on Tuesday 12 November.
The room, which has been developed with guidance from Autism New Zealand, has been specifically created for people who can become easily overwhelmed in bright and busy environments. The room can also be used for those who experience anxiety, have panic attacks or who are temporarily feeling unwell and need to sit down in a calm space away from the noise of the shopping centre.
Bayfair centre manager and leading accessibility advocate Steve Ellingford said, “It is difficult for families affected by sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders to go to busy public places – in fear that they won’t be able to find somewhere suitable for their family and their needs. The quiet room provides a safe haven and allows them to continue their shopping, especially as we head into the busy holiday period.”
The centre has already had a positive reception for other sensory activities, from Sensory Santa to sensory school holiday events, and the quiet room – which appears to be a first for a shopping centre in New Zealand – was an important addition in the development design process.
Mr Ellingford said, “We have had a quiet room in our plans for some time and are really pleased that through this development we are now able to offer this new space for shoppers and visitors. In addition to the quiet room we have also opened a second parents’ room so mums and dads can have another peaceful and private space to change, nurse and calm their young ones.”
For many people with sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders, background music and bright lighting can make for an extremely unsettling experience. The quiet room is designed to combat this, eliminating the chaos and sensory overload that may usually overwhelm those with these disorders and giving them a safe place to escape in a shopping centre environment.
According to Autism New Zealand, autism spectrum disorder touches the lives of more than 76,000 people and their families in New Zealand, with 1 in 59 being diagnosed with autism.
Dane Dougan, the chief executive of Autism New Zealand, said: “We know that for our community with sensory issues, the bright lights, music and general festivities around a visit to the mall can be overwhelming. We want all members of the community to be comfortable in that environment and Bayfair Shopping Centre’s quiet room initiative shows understanding of our community. It is something that we see as very important and will make a big difference in the experience. As an organisation we advocate strongly for understanding and this a great example of that.”
The quiet room will be launching on Tuesday 12 November at a low-key after-hours event where members of the community and those with sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders can view the room and sign up for access. In planning for this event, the centre has considered many aspects from catering to seating and working with tenants who are trading late to minimise disruption.
Other considerations for this event include:
- All mall audio will be turned off
- Centre directories will be available in Braille
- The event will take place at the nearest entry to plenty of accessible parking (which will be monitored)
- Toys will be supplied that are best suited for those with sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders
- A representative from New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) will sign the info given at the event
- Mobility scooters and wheelchairs will be available at the event and assistance where required from vehicles using accessibility parking.
Once open, the quiet room will be accessible using a personalised electronic access card that users can register at the Bayfair customer service desk. Once the access card is issued it will give will give quick easy access to the quiet room at any time while in the Centre.
About Bayfair Shopping Centre
Bayfair Shopping Centre, the largest shopping centre in the Bay of Plenty, is managed by AMP Capital on behalf of its owners, AMP Capital Shopping Centre Fund and Fisher Funds. The centre has more than 140 of the Bay’s best stores and eateries in one convenient location, and prides itself on being New Zealand’s leader in sustainable and accessible retail spaces with thoughtful and inclusive community facilities and services.
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