Shoppers at the intu Shopping Centre in Bromley donned virtual reality headsets to experience a shopping centre visit from the perspective of an autistic child last month.
The pioneering initiative, which is part of work by intu and the National Autistic Society to bring better awareness and support for autistic shoppers and their families, is currently touring the UK at intu’s 14 other shopping centres this summer.
It uses virtual reality to simulate the sights and sounds of a shopping centre as experienced by someone on the autism spectrum by taking people inside the National Autistic Society’s viral film Can you make it to the end?.
It is the latest event in the National Autistic Society’s ‘Too Much Information’ public awareness campaign, launched in April to increase public understanding of autism, and one of the first times virtual reality technology has been used to raise awareness of the condition. More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and the charity found that half of people and their families sometimes or often don’t leave their homes because they are worried about negative and judgemental responses due to a lack of understanding of autism.
Alex Marshall, the 10-year-old autistic star of the campaign film was said: “It really helps when people understand things, and this is a really cool way to do it – you can just show someone inside your head! When someone’s seen what it’s like, I think they’ll know why I get overwhelmed, and then they’ll understand that I’m not being naughty.”
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society added: “Half of autistic people and their families sometimes or often don’t leave their houses because they may receive judgemental and negative reactions to their autism from other members of the public. Virtual reality is such a fantastic medium and we want to use it to help people identify with a young autistic boy who is having a crisis in a shopping centre.”
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