Group of people stood around a mascot holding the Autism Acceptance Plus Award inside the Life Science Centre

Life celebrates start of Autism Acceptance Week with ‘Gold Plus’ award

Life has become the first visitor attraction to receive a ‘Gold Plus Standard’ Autism Acceptance Award, from North East Autism Society (NEAS).

The prestigious award, which comes at the start of Autism Acceptance Week (2 April), recognises the pioneering six-year partnership between Life and NEAS and the science centre taking “autism acceptance to the next level”.

This has led to international recognition for the science centre, with Life receiving enquiries about its work and approach, from organisations in France, Italy and Japan as well as across the UK.

Working closely with NEAS, Life has implemented a range of improvements in the visitor experience for autistic people, from shaping new exhibitions at the centre and launching sensory-friendly Relaxed Sundays to increasing staff’s understanding of autism and neurodiversity through on-going specialist training.

In recognition of the science centre’s innovative approach to inclusivity, Life was awarded the international Mariano Gago award in 2022 for its work with autistic communities. The awards are dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of the professional science engagement world.

Life Chief Executive, Linda Conlon, said: “This latest award from NEAS recognises the pioneering partnership we’ve forged with them over the last six years and our on-going commitment to making the centre an inclusive and welcoming place for all.

“It takes a lot of time, energy and a shared vision to bring about meaningful change and we have found the perfect partner in NEAS.

“This has also proved the catalyst for a much wider approach to improving the centre for not only anyone with sensory challenges, but also to ensure that we provide the best experience possible for all visitors.”

The NEAS Autism Acceptance Award was first launched in 2019 to recognise organisations committed to making a difference for autistic and neurodivergent people.

NEAS Family Development Manager Kerrie Highcock said: “It’s the first time that we have given out a Gold Plus award, and it is hugely deserved because the Life Science Centre has taken autism acceptance to the next level.

“They have embedded accessibility and inclusion across their organisation, and their work is now regarded internationally as exemplars of best practice.”