An Inclusive Christmas at The Liberty

The Liberty Shopping Centre in Romford will welcome a Sensory Santa to ensure an inclusive festive experience, in support of Purple Tuesday.

Between 20th November and 18th December from 4pm-5pm every Wednesday, the shopping centre will host a free autism friendly grotto where children and adults with learning disabilities or autism can meet Santa in a welcoming and calming environment.

The Sensory Santa Grotto will be hosted within the Sycamore Trust’s Sensory Room, an area that was created to provide families and individuals with autism a relaxing space to use, especially during the busy Christmas period.

Following the centre’s introduction of the UK’s first disability friendly ‘Calm Lane’, a 260-metre path, The Liberty are dedicated to fill the gap in festive activities for individuals with autism and learning disabilities. Individuals simply have to follow the centre’s ‘Calm Lane’ and they will arrive at the Sensory Santa Grotto.

The initiatives have been designed to create an enjoyable and stress-free shopping experience for individuals with learning disabilities. Sensory Santa is an event that has been created in response to Purple Tuesday’s goal to improve the customer experience for disabled customers.

Sensory Santa will be autism trained and will be handing out gifts, including books and audio books. Autism friendly ear defenders for children and adults will also be available at the centre’s customer service desk.

Centre Manager, Jonathan Poole said: “We’re so happy to introduce Sensory Santa to the centre this year with the Sycamore Trust, on the back of Purple Tuesday.

We understand that for some children, visiting Santa can be a frightening and stressful experience, which is why we have created our Sensory Santa grotto.”

Steve Dixon from Sycamore Trust- Autism Hub added: “Sensory Santa will give children a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the excitement of Christmas in a welcoming space.

The busy Christmas period can be a real challenge for people with a learning disability. We hope introducing Sensory Santa will mean everyone gets to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.”

The Liberty are encouraging donations in return for a visit to sensory santa. All donations will be in support of The Sycamore Trust and The Liberty’s charities of the year, Haven House Children’s Hospice and Cancer Research UK.

Purple Tuesday is the UK’s accessible shopping day. The government-backed campaign launched this month to encourage retailers to make their shopping experience more inclusive for customers with disabilities.

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