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Education Officer leads way for RAF Museum to become the first cultural venue in the UK to win an Autism Access Award

Published on: 18 July 2014

Today the National Autistic Society (NAS) presented the Royal Air Force Museum with an Autism Access Award at a ceremony held at the Museum.

Left to right: Karen Whitting (Director Public Programming RAF museum); Ellen Lee (RAF Museum); Janet Corcoran (NAS) and Councillor Hugh Rayner

The Royal Air Force Museum London is very proud to announce that it is the first Museum in the UK to be awarded the National Autistic Society’s ‘Autism Access Award’ for museums and galleries. 

The award is given to organisations that are committed to being autism friendly and in the past has been awarded to government bodies. For the first time ever, it has now been bestowed to a Museum in recognition of its endeavours to ensure wider accessibility to visitors with autism.

The improvements were spearheaded by Education Officer, Ellen Lee of the Museum’s Access & Learning Development department and include a dedicated section for accessibility within the Museum’s website and a downloadable autism friendly trail. 

Onsite developments include a dedicated quiet space within the main Museum hall and clearer signage. The Museum has also committed to delivering an autism awareness training programme for public facing staff as well as volunteers.  This will also result in certain staff being nominated as Autism Champions. 

Ellen Lee with children from The Valley School, Stevenage

The award was presented at a ceremony held at the Museum today. In attendance were Trustees from the RAF Museum and The National Autism Society, The Worshipful The Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet Councillor Hugh Rayner and children from valley School who livened up the proceedings with a musical performance.

Says Ellen Lee Education Officer and Project Leader:  “It has been a real privilege to have been involved in the Autism Access Award and I am grateful for the encouragement and support given by the National Autistic Society and by my colleagues at the Museum. I am very happy that the Museum has been recognised for its efforts to improve accessibility for all its visitors. The National Autistic Society were very impressed with the Museum overall and we hope that we will inspire other museums and galleries to become more autism friendly.”

Robert Pritchett, the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Director of Autism Accreditation, said: “The NAS is delighted that the Royal Air Force Museum is the first cultural venue to win our Autism Access Award. 

A trip to a museum can often be a frightening experience for the thousands of people in the UK living with autism. General sights and sounds in the environment such as the hum of the air conditioning, the glare of lights, together with the noise of other visitors, can result in debilitating sensory overload. However, if small, thoughtful adjustments are made venues can easily become autism friendly. 

It has been a pleasure to work with the museum’s staff who have made changes which ensure that people with autism and their families not only feel well supported but are able to enjoy the same fantastic places as everyone else. 
The NAS has already received many compliments about the venue, its exhibitions and online resources from parents and our adult service users, so this award is thoroughly deserved.”

The Deputy Mayor of London for Business and Enterprise, Kit Malthouse, said "The Royal Air Force Museum is emerging as one of the most interesting venues for Londoners and visitors to rediscover. Its not just about planes, but about an institution and a community - the RAF family and the people of Hendon. Its fitting therefore that it has been recognised for its inclusivity and is the first cultural venue to receive an Autism Access Award. Well done to one of my favourite museums in London!"

If you are planning to visit us and would like to download our information for visitors with autism, you may do so here.

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