Feeling anxious when visiting a new venue can affect many people no matter what their requirements are. Below we are speaking Scottish Autism to find out what accessibility features can assist people with autism.
How do you currently source accessibility information about a venue or place being visited?
Much of the work is done either online and through prior knowledge that practitioners have of specific venues. Where there are specific needs for individual service users then staff would either contact the venue directly and/or conduct a visit prior to the activity taking place in order to assess suitability and identify any possible risks.
What could be done to improve the provision of this information?
More testimony from people who access different venues would be beneficial specifically from those who find new/ different environments challenging to access for a variety of different reasons. While sites such as TripAdvisor do provide some sort of guide there is perhaps a lacking of information which is of more relevance to individuals who require support to access different venues (e.g. ease of accessibility, sensory issues identified, toilet facilities etc.).
Would the use of virtual experiences facilitate/improve access for Scottish Autism and its members?
From what I have seen the virtual experiences which you have developed would allow for a degree of preparation for visiting different venues dependent on the level of understanding of the individual. If the individual understands what they represented, then I can see it being a very worthwhile tool. It may support them in decreasing anxiety around new and unfamiliar environments, plan potential routes around venues that may allow them to fully benefit from the activity. For staff it would provide a level of insight which would normally only be gained through a site visit.
What could be done to improve the virtual experiences?
If the addition of an audio element could be incorporated within the videos that may be of some use to identify and prepare for that sensory stimulus being present in the environment. This could possibly reflect different noise levels and sounds present at different times e.g. busy/quiet periods. Possibly the ability to represent changes in surfaces (steps etc.) within the videos and a possible representation of the space that you would be in, relative to the size of yourself, may also be an advantage.
Thank you to Scottish Autism for answering our questions and giving our readers more of an insight into how virtual experiences can help someone with autism to visit a new place.