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Pier offers to extend ‘quiet hour’ provision – and changes autism hour times

Friday 12th July

A top tourist attraction hopes to further increase its accessibility to people with autism and other sensory issues.

The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare has now hosted its first couple of ‘quiet hours’, which take place on the first Sunday of every month.

For the first two autism hours, the Pier opened at 9am instead of 10am. The usual background music was switched off, there were no tannoy announcements and, where possible, lighting was reduced on the amusements and attractions.

While the move was widely praised, many people said it was simply too early and therefore not practical for them to attend.

The move was the latest in a series of measures introduced by the Grand Pier in order to make the seafront attraction as accessible as possible to everyone.

In line with that ethos, the Pier has listened to feedback and has changed the time of the next autism hour, on Sunday 4 August, to run between 10am and 11am.

The attraction is also open to discussing improving its accessibility even further.

Group Marketing Manager Lucy Graham said: “We chose to open early on a Sunday morning because it’s generally one of the quieter times of the week, so by taking a few extra steps we could make the Pier as welcoming as possible to those with sensory difficulties.

“To allow us to effectively create a sensory environment, it is important that these ‘autism hours’ take place at the start of the day. However, we also appreciate that 9am on a Sunday morning did not suit everybody.

“We are encouraged by the overall positive response to the idea, and as a result of the feedback we have received, have decided to move the starting time to 10am instead of 9am.

“While it means the Pier will also be open to the general public, we will still take the special measures regarding music, tannoy announcements and lighting.

“We will also be alerting everyone who accesses the Pier of this dedicated quiet hour to ensure the experience is enjoyed by all.

“This move also demonstrates our willingness to listen to what our guests are telling us, and to do everything we realistically can to provide what they want.

“In addition, we would welcome conversations from schools and other organisations which look after people with sensory difficulties and it might be that we could do a quiet hour one weekday morning to accommodate organised groups.”

Ben Egryn Nicholas, Chair of the National Autistic Society North Somerset Branch, welcomed the Pier’s introduction of the Sunday morning quiet hour.

He said: “The Quiet Hour for the Christmas Grotto proved to be popular among families and we were pleased to be able to work with the team at the Pier to do it. It’s great that the team want to build on that and offer sessions throughout the year.

“Quiet Sessions at the Pier offer people on the autism spectrum and their families the opportunity to enjoy the amusements and entertainment – and simply to have fun!

“I hope other local businesses will hear about this and consider how they could be more accessible – for instance, by holding quiet hours or adapting their everyday practices.”

The Grand Pier has an Accessibility Guide on its website, which can be downloaded, which has information about its facilities and services for those with special needs.

All areas of the Pavilion and function rooms have lift and escalator access; disabled access toilets are also available on all floors.

There is also an Essential Companions scheme to ensure guests are able to receive the support they need in order to visit and enjoy the Grand Pier.

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