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Regions Bank Has More Than 1,500 Autism-Friendly Branches

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More and more companies are embracing sensory-friendly events and autism-inclusive programs, including Regions Bank. The Alabama-based banking company recently rolled out a company-wide initiative to more than 1,500 branches across 15 states to better accommodate those on the spectrum, as well as their families.

To provide autistic individuals a better experience, each branch offers a designated quiet area and provides complimentary sensory packs to those who request them. Each pack includes a pair of earbuds, a stress ball and sunglasses. The packs are made by the nonprofit organization Workshops, Inc., which employs adults living with developmental disabilities.

Regions also created an informational training video for its bank employees to provide education and awareness. The video features communication tips from autism experts at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Sarah O’Kelley, Ph.D., a clinician at the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Civitan-Sparks Autism Clinic and Department of Psychology, who worked with Regions on developing its program, said:

One of the best things associates can do to be more autism-friendly is to show tolerance and understanding for those who may respond to the social and sensory aspects of the banking experience differently. Some of the symptoms of autism may seem unusual to people without experience with this diagnosis, but being clear and direct with a person with autism and letting that person know what you’re thinking can be very helpful.

The program started in 2016 after the Autism Society of Alabama reached out to Regions Bank to see if it would be interested in starting an autism-friendly initiative. A pilot program began locally in July 2016 and was expanded to Regions’ more than 1,500 branches in April during Autism Awareness Month. Participating branches are spread throughout Regions’ 15-state footprint: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Lousiana, Mississipi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

“In just listening, it was obvious that this was a group of individuals who have been underserved and not always welcomed in a place of business,” Americans with Disabilities Act Manager for Regions Kathy Lovell told The Mighty. “We’re reaching out to let them know we do value their business and are looking for ways we can enhance it.”

According to Lovell, feedback for the program has been positive, not just from customers but from bank employees as well. Regions hopes to further improve its initiative by offering additional services for autistic children and adults. This will hopefully include, Lovell said, a series of social stories around banking, covering opening an account, online banking, financial literacy and writing checks.

“Based on our research, we have not found any other bank that is doing this,” Veleka Finch, Regions’ vice president of corporate communications, said in response to the idea that Regions is the first autism-friendly bank. “The Autism Society also supports that, but we have not found another bank on record to do this.”

Originally published: May 25, 2017
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