Bayfair’s Sensory Skating Session in time for Autism Awareness Month

April 2017

Finding new ways to entertain kids in the school holidays can be difficult, especially when tasked with leaving the house to join crowded community activities.

Our Platinum rated shopping centre pulled out all the stops this Autism Awareness Month to make sure everyone is catered for – perfect timing for these Easter holidays.

From the 14th of April, Bayfair Shopping Centre hosted an ice-skating rink, with a special early morning session dedicated to those with sensory processing disorders. The more controlled environment eliminated busy crowds, lights, sounds, and anything that may trigger a child with a sensory processing disorder such as autism.

Centre manager Steve Ellingford said there was no question about incorporating a sensory skating session in their continued pursuit of being inclusive for all.

"It's extremely important to us that everyone is catered for at the centre, we want to be a role model for inclusivity in the Tauranga community. Hosting a morning especially for those who require a little less noise and fuss was an easy choice for us, we never want to leave anybody out."

In the second week of the holidays, the centre hosted its annual innovation station for the Young Innovator Awards. This year however, the event also offered sensory bookings, which Ellingford says is part of a continued plan to host a Wednesday morning sensory theme.

"We want to promote a friendlier sensory environment each Wednesday morning before 10.30am, which will include turning off the centre’s audio and setting all automatic doors to open.

"It's just one morning a week where we change a few things, and it will make visiting us a lot easier for many members of the public."

Bayfair Shopping Centre has long been an advocate for accessibility not only within the Tauranga community but on a national scale. Be. Accessible awarded a platinum rating for their commitment to the cause in 2015. Centre manager Steve Ellingford is also a member of our wonderful Fab50, a network of New Zealand’s most passionate, accessibility-focused business people.

Be. Accessible's CEO Minnie Baragwanath says Bayfair is trail blazing the way for social change in New Zealand.

"These sensory initiatives are so valuable; not only do they serve the immediate community, but they also encourage other New Zealand businesses to follow suit. By making activities accessible to everyone on the autism spectrum, Bayfair Shopping Centre is demonstrating to the wider public that the needs of the accessibility community matter, they are showing that they care. Bayfair’s commitment to accessibility is something we hope centres all over the country will learn from, striving for inclusivity for all should be at the top of every shopping centre’s agenda."

According to Autism New Zealand, 1 in 66 people in the country have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Approximately 65,000 kiwis are on the spectrum; ranging from those who need full time support, to those who simply require a sympathetic understanding of their differences and alternative behaviour patterns.