On July 13th 2022, Autism-Europe (AE) organised the final hybrid international conference of the Autism Friendly Spaces (AFS) project in the European Parliament. The event was hosted by Member of European Parliament (MEP) Alex Agius Saliba and also welcomed by the Minister of Inclusion from Malta, Hon. Julia Farrugia Portelli.
The Autism Friendly Spaces (AFS) project, started in October 2019, aimed at promoting a more accessible society and participation in social activities of youngsters on the autism spectrum. One of the main objectives of this project was to promote better access to public and private spaces, through a Certification System enabling the application for ‘Autism Friendly Spaces’ and a nationwide awareness campaign. Another objective was to train educators and youth workers about autism and equip them with inclusion strategies for students/young people on the autism spectrum.
To this end, the AFS project created and implemented four online modules, easily accessible and highly informative for educators and youth workers. It also established a Certification System allowing private sectors and public entities to make their spaces ‘Autism Friendly’
Promoting an autism-friendly society across Europe
The final event began with opening remarks from MEP Alex Agius Saliba, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Petitions and the Minister of Inclusion from Malta, Hon. Julia Farrugia Portelli who have been supportive of the scheme to foster the inclusion of autistic people in public spaces. Aurélie Baranger, director of Autism-Europe, highlighted the importance of promoting universal access and an autism-friendly society across Europe in her welcome speech.
Participants in the European Parliament and from across Europe had the chance to learn more about the results of AFS projects in all the participating countries.
First, Margaret White, the project coordinator from Prisms Malta presented the overall objectives and activities of the ‘Autism Friendly Spaces’ project. During the project, online modules were created to give information and raise awareness of what autism entails in various areas of life. Trainees who completed the four modules were given a certificate endorsed by CRPD and Autism-Europe.
You can find the online modules at the following link: Online modules | AutismFriendlySpaces
The project also created Criteria for AFS Quality Label and invited businesses to become more welcoming of autistic people and their families. A number of businesses received the Autism Friendly Spaces Award.
You can find these places on the map here: Home | AutismFriendlySpaces.
A list of the AFS Awards is also available here: Page | AutismFriendlySpaces.
Partners of ‘Autism Friendly Spaces’ from Heritage Malta, McDonald’s Malta, Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability in Malta, and Macedonian Scientific Society Autism from North Macedonia shared their experiences and good practices to enhance access for autistic people in public spaces, respectively in museums, restaurants, the work environment, and schools.
Additional best practices videos from ‘Autism Friendly Spaces’ were also presented at the final event. You can find the videos here: Page | AutismFriendlySpaces
At the end of the event, MEP Alex Agius Saliba stressed that the political pressure will continue for societies to become more inclusive.
This work will continue with a focus on access to employment for autistic people via a new spin-off project: Autism-friendly spaces: The employability twist – Autism Europe
You can find the video of the full event in the European Parliament here
More information about the project: Home | AutismFriendlySpaces