Interactive video tours for autistic people

Adam Barrett, Director of Access Social Ltd, discusses iROAM, a service which provides interactive video tours of buildings to improve accessibility for autistic people. Adam explains where the idea for iROAM came from and how they developed the service.

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Author: Adam Barrett


Autism is something that has been a huge part of my life for 30 years. I have an autistic sister with epilepsy and I am part of the team that supports her to live independently. My passion for inclusion and disability rights lead me to create a tool that all autistic people can benefit from, with the support of my business partner Antony Curran.

Autism and access
Seeing autism as an access issue is not really on anyone’s radar. Disability access is predominately seen as a physical issue and you will struggle to find adequate or useful information for autistic people on the websites of venues. Information like:
  • what does the reception area look like?
  • when is it busy? 
  • what do the toilets look like? 
  • are the lifts small? 
  • are there any strong smells in parts of the building?
  • what noises can I expect to hear? 
None of the questions autistic visitors might require before visiting are addressed in the information provided. All the sensory information that autistic visitors would love to have before visiting is missing, and something needs to be done about it. Autism is just as much an access issue as using a wheelchair, and therefore should be treated as such.
Developing iROAM
At the beginning of our journey we consulted with the Lowry Theatre at Salford Quays and Wigan Council to develop ideas and run pilots. The Lowry allowed us to film on multiple occasions and create a business case to take to Wigan Council.
In partnership with Wigan Council, Access Social gained funding via the Autism Innovation fund. In consultation with Autistic Wigan, a local community group run by autistic people, they decided to initially focus on leisure services to improve accessibility:
  • Leigh leisure Centre
  • Howe Bridge Leisure Centre
  • Wigan Life Centre.
The result of this project was a number of interactive videos which allow viewers to choose which part of the leisure centre they want to visit. It includes a number of access documents which work alongside our videos, alerting visitors to potential issues if they have impairments or sensitivities such as:
  • sensory
  • hearing
  • seeing
  • physical.
We also offer easy read, and triggers/distraction documents which highlight any potential difficulties to visitors and care givers, allowing them to prepare in advance. For example:
  • noisy/busy areas such as reception
  • shops with visually distracting items
  • potential difficulties with parking areas.
Our interactive videos and access documents for leisure centres in Wigan are available to view on their website.
“I have autism and get very nervous and anxious going into new places: it can be really stressful for me and my mum worries about taking me into new places because she’s never sure how I will react.  Marian told my mum about the video and we watched it a couple of times so we could see what it was like inside, it was really helpful. When I went to visit I wasn’t as anxious going in and loved it when I got there as I saw some old friends that I could chat to without worrying about the new pace, as I had already seen it on the video”.
“The video made me feel safer going in and showed me all the rooms so I could see what activities went on in the different rooms. It really helped me when I visited to decide if I wanted to go there. More places should have videos, it would help autistic people to not be nervous”.
Improving accessibility
We want to disrupt the whole disability access information market! We want businesses, healthcare, tourism and leisure industries to realise they are not providing adequate information for a large majority of people with sensory needs. What we provide is simple, cost effective and extremely useful. If you plan for true accessibility, it’s not expensive.
Date added: 20 July 2017