Without much fanfare, the National Autistic Society of the U.K. just honored The Gate in Islington, England, with the society’s first-ever “Autism Friendly” award given to a restaurant. The Gate, a vegetarian restaurant, has been in business since 1989 and has locations in both Islington and Hammersmith—suburbs of London.
The Gate in Islington has been helping to spread autism awareness for about two years now. In 2014, the restaurant partnered with local autism charity, Ambitious about Autism, to support local primary schools through fundraisers, school visits, speaking engagements and hands-on cooking classes with the kids. Their objectives for 2016 were to procure an “autism friendly” designation from NAS and to launch the “Chocolate Factory,” a “social enterprise” with potentially large repercussions. One objective met; one to go.
With the Chocolate Factory, The Gate founders plan to develop a chocolate business that will be run by students at Ambitious about Autism’s Ambitious College. These students will both make and sell the chocolate, and all funds raised will go straight back into the business. The goal is to give the students marketable skills that they can use to increase their “future life and job prospects,” as well as make the project self-sustaining.
And that’s not all. The Gate designates itself, “Friends of Autism,” and says that, “we know how difficult it is to go out to a restaurant if you are autistic.” To help families and individuals with autism, they’ve created a guide that can be read BEFORE diners visit the restaurant. The guide gives clear and detailed instructions on everything from making a reservation, to finding the restaurant, reading the menu and interacting with the wait staff. It also notifies the reader that the restaurant maintains a “Chill Zone” with a sofa area, where anybody can go relax and have both space and time alone.
Believe it or not, that’s not all that The Gate does to make it easier for individuals with autism to dine there. It also has an Autism-Friendly Menu, which talks all about the vegetarian ingredients used in the meals, complete with colorful photos and detailed descriptions. In addition to all of this, the restaurant practices sustainability in every facet of its business, including recycling and using locally sourced foods.
Co-founders Adrian and Michael Daniel have set the bar for other restaurants, but the bar is nowhere near too high. As they say in The Gate’s mission statement, “Accreditation is not a badge for us to wave about; The Gate wishes to blaze a trail for other restaurants across the world by us all allowing people affected by Autism to integrate more freely in society without feeling stigmatised.” Congratulations to The Gate: May you continue to lead and inspire, and may you soon be just one of many designated “autism friendly” restaurants.
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