West Belfast’s Kennedy Centre – often dubbed ‘Curley’s’ – is leading the way forward on accessibility and inclusivity this Christmas with extended support for children with additional needs when visiting the centre’s magical Christmas dome to meet-and-greet Father Christmas.
Teaming up with Enchanted Events, Kennedy Centre is offering relaxed Santa sessions this holiday season for children with additional needs. Relaxed Santa sessions cater for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), physical disabilities and other additional needs by opening the centre from 9am to 1pm every Sunday until Christmas so that any potential anxiety or mobility issues caused by large crowds of Christmas shoppers is alleviated. Centre retailers also remain closed and no noise or music is emitted from PA systems.
Recent reports show a 67% increase in the incidence rate of school age children diagnosed with ASD rising from 4,570 to 6,046 between 2011/12 and 2014/15 (Department of Health and Social Care, 2015) further cementing the need for such services in public venues.
Commenting this year’s relaxed Santa sessions, John Jones, Centre Manager, said:
“Kennedy Centre has always been a cornerstone of the community here in West Belfast. We are a community-based shopping centre and with that comes the responsibility to ensure we take into consideration the additional needs and support members of the community within the catchment area require.
“We’re delighted to have the Enchanted Events team return to Kennedy Centre again this Christmas to support us as we continue to deliver our services to all members of the local community.”
Now widely adopted in Northern Ireland, Kennedy Centre is largely credited for introducing the concept to fast-paced shopping centres in 2015.
“Visiting Santa should be a magical and memorable experience; one without mobility issues or anxiety. However, not all children are afforded this luxury. Similar relaxed Santa sessions are now a regular feature in the Christmas events calendars of shopping centres throughout Northern Ireland, who open their doors at midday on Sundays. But, Kennedy Centre is leading the way forward by extending these sessions from 9am until centre opening hours of 1pm,” explained Angela Lamont, owner of Enchanted Events.
Should a child become anxious, frightened or if access issues arise during their visit, Santa will greet them at a more convenient point around the Christmas installation for photographs.
Kennedy Centre relaxed Santa sessions take place every Sunday (9am – 1pm) until December 18th.
For more information, contact Kennedy Centre on 028 9030 0734 or visit www.kennedycentre.co.uk.