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 adding in new ways to help your visit and experience.
Like most public buildings, intu Potteries 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.
Our terms and conditions for assistance dogs are:
• will not wander freely around the premises
• will sit or lie quietly on the floor next to their owner
• are unlikely to foul in a public place
• access to assistance dogs is on a one dog per handler basis
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.
From 6 November, you may hire sensory bags from our customer service desk and these cost a £20 refundable deposit which you will receive upon returning the bag.
Included in the bag
• 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.
• Visual symbols: Autistic people may find unpredictability difficult to manage and it may increase anxiety. Visual symbols help to communicate messages without the need for verbal information, which may further overwhelm the individual.
• Fidget toys: Helps autistic people manage an increase in anxiety.
• 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.
Sensory bag FAQs
How much does it cost to hire a sensory bag?
A £20 refundable deposit is taken which you will receive upon returning the bag.
How long can I hire the sensory bag for?
The sensory bag must be handed back to the customer service desk of hire within 5 hours. If you need to extend the hire time, please speak to the customer service team who will be happy to assist.
Can I purchase the backpack?
Unfortunately, the backpack will not be for sale, however we do hope to be able to sell some of the items within the bags soon.
Are the products cleaned after each use?
All the products within the backpacks are thoroughly cleaned with disinfected wipes after each use. We also provide disposal covers for the ear defenders. Please speak with a member of our customer service team if you are concerned over any allergies.
Can I phone and reserve a sensory bag to hire later in the day?
As the centre currently only has a small supply of sensory backpacks we are unable to offer this service at present, however we will be reviewing this over the next couple of months.
Why is there a minimum age limit?
The minimum age of 5 years old has been set by the manufacturer guidelines.
Will you look to develop an adult sensory bag?
We are currently working with autism charities to develop an adult sensory bag, which we hope to launch in the future.
Sensory Bag Conditions of use:
The child MUST be a minimum of 5 years old.
The child/children/adult MUST only be supervised by a responsible adult (aged 18+).
The child/children must not be left unattended with the items at any time.
The Sensory bag must be handed back to the customer service desk of hire within 5 hours.
Please report signs of wear or damage to our customer service team.
The ear defenders and sunglasses have an age limit of 15 years old.
Please note: The Sensory Bag must only be used in the confines of the intu shopping centre from where it has been hired and is not to be taken outside the shopping centre.
When are the quiet hours in the centre?
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 Hour, please click here.