BBC first broadcaster to receive Autism Access award

The BBC has become the first UK broadcaster to receive the National Autistic Society’s Autism Access Award.

The award was presented to staff at BBC North after it introduced a range of measures to make it easier for people with autism to visit and work at its base in Salford.

Improvements include creating two interactive films – one for children and one for adults – for the BBC Shows and Tours website, which tell visitors to BBC buildings at MediaCityUK what to expect before they arrive, enabling anyone with autism or their carers to plan a tour in advance.

In addition all tour guides, reception staff and security guards have received Autism Awareness Training and a work experience scheme for people with ‘neurodiverse’ conditions has been piloted.

The announcement comes in the week the BBC broadcasts two brand new series exploring the challenges faced by people with autism.

Employable Me on BBC Two which follows people with hidden neurological conditions, including autism, as they seek to prove that having a neurological conditions shouldn’t make them unemployable; while BBC One drama The A-Word shows a family coming to terms with their son being diagnosed as autistic.

The BBC is committed to ensuring that autism is represented accurately and The National Autistic Society were among those consulted about both productions.

Ian Haythornthwaite, BBC Director of Finance and project sponsor, says: “I am immensely proud of the hard work, dedication and creative thinking which has led to this award. The BBC belongs to everyone so it is right that we are accessible to all, including those with hidden conditions such as autism.

“Our buildings at MediaCityUK are now the benchmark for our industry and we’ll be exploring making similar adjustments across all of our premises.

“This is just one part of the wider work we are doing across the BBC to make sure that we reflect all our audiences both on and off air.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, says: “It’s vitally important that autistic people and their families have access to places of work, entertainment and leisure in the same ways that other people take for granted. So, we are really pleased that BBC North has achieved a National Autistic Society access award.

“The award is rooted in understanding the needs of autistic people, and what adaptations should be made within the constraints of a particular space or business. So it involves consulting with autistic people about the challenges they face in any particular environment. The BBC went about this in a really thorough way across their buildings in Media City, involving many of their own staff with a personal connection to autism as well as external experts. Based on what they learned, they have made a series of changes, for instance making videos available to make it easier to plan a visit and ensuring staff have an understanding of autism. And they’ll make sure that the process doesn’t stop there, and any future developments will consider the autistic perspective.

“We have been so impressed by the commitment the BBC has shown to ensuring they are open to autistic people in Media City. We’re sure that when a national institution leads the way like this, many others will follow.”

The work towards the award is part of a wider project on neurodiversity at the BBC which will next month host an event at New Broadcasting House, London, celebrating the creative and analytical abilities possessed by people with conditions such as autism that can bring value to the BBC and its audiences.

To find out more about autism or the National Autistic Society visit www.autism.org.uk

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