As part of plans to make shopping at the centre more accessible and enjoyable for everyone, the North West shopping centre is introducing a number of initiatives that will enable people living with disabilities to have more comfortable shopping experiences. The move comes after Charter Walk participated in the national “Purple Tuesday” campaign back in November of last year. The centre is also one of only two shopping centres in the North West to receive an ‘Autism Friendly’ award.

The national Purple Tuesday campaign saw customer facing retail businesses across the UK take steps to enrich the customer experience for disabled shoppers and become more aware of the spending opportunities they represent. It is estimated that one in five people in the UK are living with a disability or impairment and their collective spending power, known as the ‘Purple Pound’, is worth £249m to the UK economy. Since taking part in the scheme Charter Walk has developed a number of permanent initiatives to make the centre fully accessible to shoppers with disabilities year round.

All of the staff at the centre have received training in autism awareness and three team members have been selected to be dedicated ‘Autism Champions’. These three staff members will act as the go to employee for anyone seeking advice, staff and shoppers alike. In addition to this the centre regularly has a dedicated quiet hour, every Tuesday between 9am-10am, which aims to help anyone feeling overwhelmed or suffering from sensory overload by reducing elements that can trigger this feeling. During this hour a number of the centre’s retailers lower or completely turn off their background music and staff don’t carry out any loud or obtrusive tasks. The quiet hour is supported by a number of designated quiet zones which are available at any time for shoppers who may be feeling overwhelmed during their visit.

To help any shoppers who may have mobility issues Charter Walk installed a permanent purple walkway within their carpark designed to highlight the easiest route of access. The centre has also implemented a card scheme to provide shoppers who have difficulty communicating verbally to be able to ask for assistance should they require it at any point, the cards are available to download online or collect from Centre Management.

Debbie Hernon, Centre Manager, said: “Since taking part in the national Purple Tuesday campaign we have been striving to promote an inclusive atmosphere and are continuously working hard to ensure that Charter Walk is fully accessible for all shoppers. We’re one of only twelve shopping centres in the UK to be certified Autism Friendly and we’re looking forward to building on this success throughout 2019.”

Charter Walk is also a disability confident employer which means that any applicant who fulfils the role requirements and has a disability will be automatically offered an interview. The voluntary disability confident scheme is aimed at making sure employers have the right skills to attract, employ and retain employees who may have a disability.