Staffordshire residents have been learning more about Autism and learning disabilities.
The Celebrating Differences campaign launched this week using Virtual Reality (VR) to help people experience the sensory difficulties, that many autistic people face.
People queued up in Stafford’s Market Square, Uttoxeter and Newcastle-under-Lyme town centres this week to take part in the Staffordshire County Council initiative.
Using VR headsets, headphones and a video produced by The National Autistic Society, people were able to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
Uttoxeter resident David Thomas had a go with the VR headset and said: “It made me feel a bit dizzy but I can now appreciate how difficult it must be with lots of noise interrupting your thoughts.”
Julia Jessel, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Health and Care said: “It’s important that our local communities are as inclusive as possible so we can all lead happy and healthier lives.
“Through our new Celebrating Differences campaign, we hope to give people a glimpse into the world of Autism and help them think about how they can support people locally. Using virtual reality is a really effective way of doing this. The campaign also aims to increase confidence for people with Autism or learning disabilities by helping other organisations make positive changes. It has been developed by consulting people with lived experience who chose the logo colours and name.
“There are an estimated 3,200 adults in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent with a learning disability. With national figures predicting that this number will continue to increase, we need to be ready to give young people the confidence they need to go out and access their communities.”
A Specialist Teacher on the Autism Outreach Team added: “I am pleased to support this project as it aims to take a step towards Autism acceptance and support our communities as we grow towards inclusivity.”
The campaign is also encouraging local businesses to be more Autism friendly and inclusive and to make those small changes to do so. Any business that is recognised as making a difference will receive a window sticker, certificate and poster.
Some organisations making a difference and supporting the campaign include: Staffordshire Football Association, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire Libraries, Enabling Technology Limited and Ambassador Theatre Group.
The campaign is funded by Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care System (ICS).