Purpose of the project
It is a little known fact that ASD affects 1 in every 100-110 people and often impairs their ability to cope with busy public spaces. Parents with children on the spectrum find it difficult to visit shopping centres, for fear of their child experiencing an overload of sensory stimulation. Adolescents and adults with ASD can be equally overwhelmed. In 2014, Amaze received a note from a mother of an ASD child outlining her difficulties with public spaces and commenting on how she would greatly benefit from a quiet area at her local shopping centre. This issue sparked the Novion ‘Quiet Room’ initiative.
The innovative ‘Quiet Room’ initiative was led by Northland’s Retail Manager, who herself has a child with ASD. With no formal funds allocated for the project, volunteer resourcing was offered by Northland staff, the Novion Property Group Retail Design team, Northland’s key suppliers and contractors as well as representatives from Amaze.
The specially designed room was drawn up by Amaze, together with the Novion Property Group Retail Design team, to ensure it met the guidelines for ASD sufferers. The room build was led by Northland’s Operations Manager who called upon the centre’s key contractors and suppliers to donate expertise, labour and materials. As a result of volunteers, the project attracted almost $40,000 in gratis support.
Northland’s Retail Manager and the Novion Property Group Retail Design team worked closely to adapt the space and its design to meet the specific needs of individuals with ASD. They researched journal studies and other published articles and found that pastels and muted tones calmed the vibrations of a particular space and adopted these principles when choosing the general palette. In addition to media outreach and social engagement, Northland has also built additional communication channels to reach and support families and individuals affected by ASD. A new ‘community’ tab has been added to the website plus a letter has been distributed by Northland centre management to all special needs schools in the trade area inviting them to register for access to the ‘Quiet Room’.
In just two weeks of public access, more than 50 local families and individuals have registered for the ‘Quiet Room’. The room is being used on a daily basis with regular repeat visitation by local shoppers. Northland’s website traffic increased by 40% in the month of June 2014 achieving a visitation number of 49,662. Facebook fan numbers grew by 345 in the month of June 2014. Fan engagement increased by an astronomical 3000% achieving 23,846 (clicks or stories created).
Following its opening, the Novion Property Group has earmarked the ‘Quiet Room’ initiative for roll out at other centres with the space to accommodate it, and Northland has been directly approached by three separate centres including leading competitors.
The myriad of letters and messages of appreciation received by Northland Shopping Centre Management from members of the community and media has solidified the thinking behind the ‘Quiet Room’ and validated its original purpose. What started as a simple response to a shopper’s cry for help, appears to have started a social revolution.
The initiative has clearly responded to an issue that is important to a significant proportion of the local community. The social value added through this initiative includes: improved wellbeing and confidence of individuals with ASD; improved wellbeing and productivity of carers; reduced instances of intervention treatments (including medical practitioner visits or support) due to avoided episodes; and, improved wellbeing and productivity of remaining family members. We will be looking to measure these societal outcomes in more detail in the coming year.
“Novion Property Group and Federation Centres completed our merger on 12 June 2015. The Northland Shopping Centre Quiet Room case study reflects the Merged Group’s continued commitment to Sustainability. We are working hard to bring the best of both entities together as part of our integration, which includes reviewing and improving our entire approach to Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability."