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Creating an autism-friendly world!

17 January 2024

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Ainslie Robinson from Autism Spectrum Australia's Autism Friendly team discusses her role in making the world more accessible for autistic individuals. As an autistic mother, Ainslie brings personal insight into the challenges faced by autistic people in public spaces and highlights the necessity of modifying these environments for greater inclusion.

Can you tell us what autism-friendly means?

Autism-friendly means understanding the sensory and social factors in an environment or process that may inhibit the full participation of Autistic people, then making appropriate adjustments to improve accessibility.

For Autistic people and their families, it can be relatively easy to make adjustments in their own home, but once you leave home each day to participate in anything in the outside world, you are at the mercy of other people, organisations and environments. This can cause a lot of challenges. A good example is travelling, which can be a challenge. I have three Autistic people in my family, and autism presents in different ways for each of us.

There are certain things I can do for my family and I, that makes travel accessible, like planning and preparation, packing sensory tools and ear muffs. But there are things that organisations can do to make the world more inclusive for families like mine - quiet areas, sensory maps… and the thing which I think is most important - staff training on autism.

Sydney Airport staff handing out Sunflower lanyards
Sydney Airport staff handing out Sunflower lanyards

Prior to Sydney Airport’s Border Force undertaking autism training, I found going through Immigration awful. We were rushed through the passport scanners, and the staff would get frustrated when my son, who just needs clear instructions and patience, would need extra assistance.

Now we can wear the Sunflower lanyard and they know what that means, and offer a little more support through the process. The bonus of making the world more autism-friendly is that often physical spaces and processes just become that bit better for everyone!

What role does the Autism Friendly team play?

The Autism Friendly team offers a variety of services including environmental assessments of various public environments and providing recommendations on how to make them more autism-friendly. Everything the Autism Friendly team does is done as an Autistic and Non-Autistic partnership. The team works with a really wide range of partners to make activities and experiences more accessible, in places like zoos, major shopping centres, museums and galleries.

The Australian Museum Visual Story
The Australian Museum Visual Story

The Autism Friendly work I do involves working with organisations who want to make their workplaces more inclusive for their Autistic and neurodivergent employees.

This is so important as Autistic people are the most under-employed group of people with a disability with only 22% being in paid employment.

For more details on the work carried out by the Autism Friendly team visit: www.autismspectrum.org.au/how-can-we-help/making-australia-autism-friendly


About Ainslie Robinson

Ainslie is a proud Autistic mother living in the Sydney area ; she is also a Research Assistant and Working in Partnership Officer at Aspect.

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