Foyleside ‘Growing Together’ with initiatives providing comfort for those with mental health issues.
The sensory room at Foyleside Shopping Centre is one of several measures taken by the centre to improve accessibility for all visitors, and itspresence ismademoresignificantin the midstof Children’s Mental Health Week.
Located on Level 3 at the back of the Food Court, the unique space features fibre optics, bubble tubes, and sound and light settings which can easily be customised depending on the individual needs of those using the facility.
The purpose of the sensory room is to provide a calming and peaceful environment for autistic individuals or others with sensory needs, as well as those who may be experiencing mental health challenges. Noisiness and crowds can have an adverse effect on the wellbeing of autistic people, making the presence of this facility within the centre a welcome feature for many.
Having initially opened thespace in 2018, several members of Foyleside staff have since been specially trained by Autism NI to become centre champions. During this process, theylearn the importance of becoming autism-friendly, while developing skills to help assist any child or adult with the condition to plan and organise their shopping trips.
One of those Foyleside Autism Champions is Mall Officer Adrian O’Brien, who has been employed at the centre since its opening in 1995. The amount of work that Foyleside has put into educating staff and customers on autism and other conditions has impressed Adrian, and he has noticed dramatic changes since his first day on the job.
He said: “When I first started at Foyleside, many places simply weren’t as accessible as they are now, including this centre. I can only credit those at the top for making the necessary changes over the years to give so many more people the opportunity to visit in their own time, while also making the whole experience tolerable for people with autism and similar conditions. Being a Foyleside Autism Champion has really opened my eyes, and it has been extremely rewarding.”
The centre also operates a ‘Quiet Evenings’ initiative each Wednesday, which provides a quiet shopping opportunity where background music is deactivated, and PA announcements are kept to a minimum.
Fergal Rafferty, Foyleside Centre Manager, said: “We want Foyleside to be a welcoming environment for everyone, which is why the sensory room is so important tous. We understand the crowds and noise can be distressing for some, so we hope the measures taken to accommodate individuals who are autistic or have mental health conditions can go some way to making their experience in our centre that bit more enjoyable.”
We are here to help
Sensory Packs: Sensory packs are available at Customer Service on level 3. These packs include ear defenders, sensory items, and a waistband for trained staff members to recognise people that may have a additional needs during their visit.
Ear Defenders: Ear defenders are also available separately from Customer Service on level 3 for use during your visit. This accessory helps to reduce the sound levels processed. They are especially useful for children and adults who may be sensitive to noise and certain sounds.
Mobility Aids: Mobility aids are available from Shopmobility located on level 1. Shopmobility Foyle is a community service which lends manual wheelchairs, rollators, and mobility scooters to people with limited mobility, enabling them to shop within the centre.
Quiet Shopping Evening: Quiet shopping evenings are designated on Wednesday each week. In the centre, background music will be turned off and tannoy announcements kept to a minimum to ensure a peaceful shopping experience.
If you would like to find out more information about the sensory room, you can contact Foyleside via email at email@example.com by calling 028 71 377575.