VOLUNTEERS at a North-East cultural initiative have been working with us to learn how to make their events and activities more accessible for autistic people.

Members of Darlington Cultural Volunteers, a group that supports art and culture at Darlington Hippodrome and around the town, have been learning from our Autism & Neurodiversity Academy how to be more autism-friendly.

Heather Carter, a volunteer co-ordinator for Darlington Culture Volunteers, said:

“This sort of training is very important for our volunteers because we all deal with the public on every activity that we do. We meet all different sorts of people, including people who are autistic, and we want to be able to support them in the best way we can to access and enjoy cultural events in and around Darlington.”

Craig Richardson, from the Autism & Neurodiversity Academy (ANDA), which provides training to organisations across the region, worked with Darlington Culture Volunteers to help them understand how neurodiverse people interact with the world. He said:

This training is all about promoting awareness of neurodiversity. Instead of seeing autism as something with a stigma, we want to celebrate all the things autistic and neurodiverse people achieve. We’ve been doing a lot of training in and around Darlington now with people from all different backgrounds, and from different job roles and organisations. We hope this will lead to more autism acceptance, and greater understanding of how we can all better support autistic people.

As Darlington Hippodrome’s heritage learning and engagement officer, Cait Barratt works closely with the Darlington Culture Volunteers. She said:

The volunteers are a really key part of the theatre. Their dedication is amazing. They put so much effort into getting to know our audiences and make the theatre as accessible and enjoyable as possible for everyone. They’re always looking for opportunities to develop their own understanding, and what they’ve learned today will be invaluable for our autism-friendly ‘relaxed’ performances. We’re very lucky to work with them.

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