TRALEE is amongst 11 Irish towns on the journey to becoming autism-friendly.

That’s according to Supervalu, who in partnership with AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity and advocacy organisation last year announced Clonakilty as Ireland’s first Autism-Friendly Town. Now 11 towns, including Tralee, are now on the journey to join them.

In conjunction with the announcement, a survey conducted by AsIAm showed that presently, the autism community does not find society accessible, understanding and inclusive – but that simple steps could be taken to help change this.

A total of 240 people were surveyed who either have autism or know someone closely who does. Those surveyed were asked several questions about their perception of how autism is recognized and understood in retail and in the wider community.

Despite the majority of those surveyed claiming that the public do not understand enough about autism, 71% believe awareness and understanding of autism has increased in Ireland in the last year. On this, AsIAm CEO Adam Harris says that “awareness and understanding of autism needs to shift to acceptance and support”.

Simple measures can be the difference between exclusion and inclusion, and the survey showed it wouldn’t take a lot for people with autism to have their experiences improved. For example, 50% of respondents said that even if staff were understanding of autism it would greatly improve their experience.

SuperValu is pioneering these changes in-store, and they have also been the enabler in trying to make communities autism-friendly in general through their Autism Friendly Towns campaign.

In its first year, the campaign has grown significantly in scale.  Having begun as one town in Clonakilty, Co Cork it is outstanding to now welcome Tralee, as well as 10 additional towns.

The aim of this campaign is to communicate the message that communities fully accessible for autistic people are stronger, more sustainable places to live.

Jim Garvey, Owner of SuperValu Tralee commented, “SuperValu Tralee is delighted to be on a journey to help make our community more autism-friendly. As well as autism-friendly shopping in our store we’re working with organisations and businesses throughout the community to make Tralee inclusive and autism friendly. We have a fantastic Autism Friendly Committee here in Tralee. I am confident that our journey to getting accreditation will be a successful one!”

AsIAM CEO Adam Harris added, “As Ireland’s National Autism Organisation we are proud to have developed a robust but achievable framework for communities to become autism friendly, in partnership with our colleagues in SuperValu.”