Abu Dhabi took a major step towards inclusivity for people of determination.
Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination has teamed up with the management of Yas Mall Abu Dhabi to launch the “Quiet Hour”.
The initiative will take place on the first Monday of every month, starting April 5, from 11am to noon, during which there will be the implementation of certain sensory control measures.
This means that visitors to the mall during that hour will experience reduced lighting, cancellation of background music in stores, limited odours from perfume and incense stores, and no other advertisements or announcements (with the exception of emergencies).
Employees of the mall have been advised to be quiet during that time and store activities such as restocking shelves and arranging stock will be restricted. The aim is to create a calm atmosphere suitable for people with autism and other sensory disorders, as opposed to the usual bustling mall environment.
As part of the initiative, the mall also launched a "quiet room" to provide people with autism and other sensory disorders a controlled space within the mall.
"We understand that spending time in the mall can be an anxious and stressful experience for some individuals, and through this launch we aim to help alleviate such anxiety by providing a therapeutic environment customised to their needs and preferences," says Saud Khoury, chief executive of retail at Aldar Investments, which is behind Yas Mall.
“This pioneering step highlights how small changes can create a more inclusive environment and have a significant positive impact on the lives of not only those who face sensory challenges, but also to the general population, thus enhancing awareness,” he says.
The initiative was launched to mark World Autism Awareness Day, held on April 2 every year. According to Abdulla Abdulalee Al Humaidan, General Secretary of Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination, the initiative will be launched in other commercial centres, including World Trade Centre in Abu Dhabi and Al Jimi Mall in Al Ain, as part of the next phase.
“We, as institutions, universities, destinations and families, must evoke our responsibilities in serving and caring for people of determination, including individuals with autism, and coordinate our efforts, join hands and cooperate to increase awareness…” says Al Humaidan.
Al Jimi Mall
Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination and Abu Dhabi Early Childhood have also launched the sensory rooms project in Al Jimi Mall.
The room or pod, serves as a safe space for children with autism or other sensory disorders. It contains various sensory stimuli that includes visual and auditory effects with the aim to improve the user's mood, increase his or her ability to focus and provides for a peaceful getaway where they can develop coping skills and regulate negative reactions to external stimuli.
Both the quiet room in Yas Mall and the Sensory Room or pod in Al Jimi Mall are now free to access for people of determination.