Recently, one of our blogs commended the restaurant “Not Your Average Joe’s” for increasing autism awareness and accommodating autistic visitors and their special needs (read here: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/2015/03/13/not-your-average-service/). Part of the reason the restaurant owners’ effort has been so noteworthy is the fact that they have gone to lengths to maximize their customers’ comfort- to an extent uncommon in the industry.
For parents of children with autism, catering towards their children’s preferences, as well as their hypersensitivity, can be a daunting task. For most families, going to a restaurant is a run-of-the-mill experience where, at worst, you have a slow server. On the other hand, families in the autism community run into far worse problems.
Issues concerning the environment of the establishment, the impatience of workers, and the means by which you navigate such spaces (i.e. a large open dining room versus a cramped area) can drastically alter the child’s experience. Paired with their hypersensitivity to sound and light, this can create a brutally discomfiting experience.
To counteract these negative experiences, father Topher Wurts recently created a Kickstarter to raise money for an app that he has designed called “Autism Village.” Akin to the likes of Yelp and Trip Advisor, the program features reviews by families on local establishments, whether they be eateries or haircutters, and their “autism-friendly” experiences. One merely has to enter their location to get recommendations from past users. This feature can be useful for connecting a parent with a particular waitress who has experience serving autistic customers, for example.
Wurts, who is the father of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, hopes to improve other people’s family outings through his app. He knows first-hand of the trials and tribulations different establishments pose; luckily, he’s found a way to provide the best experiences possible for his son and family.
Currently, Wurts is still working towards his goal to launch a version of “Autism Village” on iOS. The app will not only benefit customers, but also establishments as it offers constructive advice on how to better serve this growing population.
By Sara Power, Fordham University