My pledge to help autistic people and their families
On the 18 July, at an award ceremony at Speakers House, the Houses of Parliament received the National Autistic Society’s prestigious Autism Friendly Award.
The award was given in recognition of the hard work and commitment of their Diversity and Inclusion team and colleagues in Visitor Services, the Serjeant at Arms office and ParliAble, to support autistic people and their families throughout their visit to Parliament.
Notable achievements included new online guidance to help autistic people plan their trip in advance, helping to minimise anxiety, and autism awareness training for front-line staff.
Including myself, around 50 parliamentarians attended the ceremony and after the ceremony I made a pledge to improve public understanding of autism by making a small change to his own behaviour to benefit his autistic constituents. My pledge was to communicate clearly and not use jargon.
More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum in the UK. This means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense, way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which means they feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information’ when out in public.
Now that Parliament has received the Autism Friendly Award and its members have pledged to make small but meaningful changes, it is hoped that autistic visitors will be encouraged to visit Parliament, to learn more about our democracy, and feel valued in their local communities.
Parliament has done a great job leading the way with this achievement, but we all need to make sure we are working to better support autistic people and their families in our local communities.
That’s why I am very pleased to pledge my support to make small changes in my day-to-day life which can benefit my autistic constituents, including my pledge to cut down the jargon. If we all work together at community level to increase autism understanding, we have the potential to transform the lives of the 700,000 autistic people and their families across the UK.
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “It is vitally important that autistic people and their families have access to the same public spaces and heritage sites that other people take for granted. So we are delighted that the Houses of Parliament has achieved the National Autistic Society’s Autism Friendly Award – and it plays a small but significant part in ensuring autistic people are able to participate in the democratic process.
“Awareness of autism is at an all-time high. But our recent survey revealed that only 16% of autistic people and their families think the public understand autism in a meaningful way.
“This is why we were so pleased to see so many MPs take the time to attend the award presentation and pledge to make a few simple changes that can help to reduce the sense of isolation which many of their autistic constituents and their families feel. We’d also like to encourage members of the public to get involved and make their own pledges to help transform their own communities.”