Bluewater Shopping Centre is marking World Autism Week 2019 by doubling down on a decision to prioritise more autism-friendly services for vulnerable shoppers.

According to the National Autistic Society, 50 per cent of autistic people and family members sometimes don’t go out because they’re worried about how people will react to their autism.

In a statement released by Bluewater, plans are now in place to hopefully "tackle some of the barriers faced by people with autism and their families", including prominent issues such as isolation and a lack of understanding from the wider public.

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This week Bluewater has offered shoppers daily quiet hours between 3pm and 5pm which will last until April 7.

A number of more permanent changes are also to be implemented throughout the rest of the year with the ambition of them being locked in by this time next year, including more weekly quiet hours, sensory toy bags for children with autism, lanyards for those with hidden disabilities to help staff act proactively, a quiet room for customer usage, and autism-friendly movie screenings with reduced lighting and sound.

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General manager for Bluewater, Robert Goodman said: "We recognise the need to cater for neurodiversity for our guests as shopping experiences can be stressful and difficult.

"We’re confident that the measures we’ve introduced today are a step in the right direction to ensuring that Bluewater is accessible to all.

"We are fully committed to ensuring all of our guests have a positive experience and delivering a welcoming experience for those with autism and their carers."