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Hidden disabilities

Find out how to make your trip easier

We understand that visiting a shopping centre can be a daunting experience for some of our customers with autism, dementia or those who need extra assistance, so we’re introducing new ways to help your visit and experience.

Assistance dogs

Like most public buildings, intu Eldon Square welcomes assistance dogs in the centre.  If your dog does not wear a high-vis jacket or harness, it is sometimes difficult for our staff to recognise the difference between assistance dogs and pets, which are not allowed in our centres.

To ensure a smooth shopping trip and make it easier for our staff to identify assistance dogs, we recommend you visit our customer information desk to collect a sunflower-design lead sleeve for your dog. This lead sleeve simply slides over your dog’s lead and enables our staff to identify your dog as an assistance dog whilst you are shopping with us. Shoppers are invited to keep this lead sleeve and use it whenever they are in the centre.

Hidden disabilities lanyards and stickers

For shoppers that require additional assistance when shopping at intu or have hidden disabilities, and wish to identify themselves, we also offer a lanyard or sticker. These lanyards/stickers are available from our customer service desk. Parents and carers can choose between a sticker or lanyard depending on their requirements.

Sensory bags

From 6 November, you may hire sensory bags from our customer service desks at Fenwick or Debenhams and these cost a £20 refundable deposit which you will receive upon returning the bag.

Included in the bag

  • Fidget toys: Helps autistic people manage an increase in anxiety.
  • Ear defenders: Some autistic people can become overwhelmed by sounds and noises and this can lead to anxiety and stress. Ear defenders help to dull down some of this noise and can offer reassurances to autistic people when in a shopping centre.
  • Egg timers: Some autistic people may find transition difficult and it often helps to give the child a countdown before moving on to the next thing. In a shopping centre these egg timers could be used to visually represent the passing of time. For example, how long the person may be in a specific shop or how long they have left until lunch time.
  • Autism Awareness Guides: Includes Awareness card, guides to the centre to demonstrate quiet and loud areas and best times to visit the centre. The guides also include an orange wrist band, if you see a customer wearing one of these bands, this is to inform staff that they are autistic.
  • Sunglasses: Some autistic individuals may find it difficult to process all the different lights and visual stimulus which are within the shopping centre. Sunglasses can act as a tool to “tone down” some of the visual input.

Read some FAQs on the sensory bag here

Quiet hours

intu introduced a ‘Quiet Hour’ initiative in 2017 offering families a more relaxed environment with low music, dimmed lights, and useful shopping guides. For more information on our monthly Quiet Hours, please click here.