• Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) awarded Autism Friendly Award
    • Award recognises significant efforts to accommodate autistic visitors

 For further information or images please contact Tom Ryley, Communications and Digital Officer, at tryley@ornc.org or call +44 (0)20 8269 4762.

The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) has been awarded the Autism Friendly Award by the National Autistic Society.

The award, which recognises a commitment towards welcoming autistic visitors, was given following recent efforts by the ORNC to welcome and improve resources for visitors with autism. 

Daniel Cadey, Autism Access Development Manager for the National Autistic Society, said:

“Autistic people and their families want the same leisure opportunities others take for granted, and this includes visits to world famous heritage sites like the Old Royal Naval College. But many autistic people rely on familiar routines to make sense of an often confusing world and so can become extremely anxious in unfamiliar places.

“This is why we are really pleased to see the changes the team at the Royal Navel College have made. These have included training staff to understand the needs of autistic visitors and offering clear online information about the layout of the site and its buildings. These changes mean that autistic visitors and their families are able to plan their trip in advance to minimise anxiety, and feel more relaxed in the knowledge that they will be well supported throughout their visit.  

"The ORNC staff have shown tremendous enthusiasm and commitment and their Autism Friendly Award is well deserved.”

Ellen Lee, Learning Producer at the ORNC said:

“We want to ensure that visitors with autism feel welcomed and supported and so we worked to identify our specific challenges, including a large site, a need for staff and volunteer awareness and a lack of quiet spaces.  It’s been a really rewarding process and it is great that the changes we’ve made have been recognised with the Autism Friendly Award. We look forward to continuing our work to make the ORNC more autism-friendly."

Improvements made include providing pre-visit information on the website, including a noise-reduced route map as well as an information pack for autistic visitors. Ear defenders have also been purchased for visitors to use on site, and quieter areas have been identified for visitors can rest and recover if feeling overwhelmed. In addition to these measures, the ORNC has committed to delivering regular basic autism-awareness training for all its staff and volunteers.

Obtaining the award is just the first phase of a wider move to become more autism friendly. Over the next three years of the Painted Hall Project, an £8.5 million project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and other donors, the ORNC plans to work with local autistic groups and develop resources for schools and families.

Sarah Duthie, Director of Public Engagement said:

“Ensuring that all visitors to the Old Royal Naval College feel welcomed and supported is of fundamental importance and I’m thrilled that the National Autistic Society has awarded us this honour as a result of our efforts to welcome and support visitors with autism”. 

Notes to editors:

For more information or images contact:

Tom Ryley

Communications and Digital Officer


+44 (0)20 8269 4762

About the Old Royal Naval College:

The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) in Greenwich was established as the Royal Hospital for Seamen by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1694.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it is one of the most important ensembles of baroque architecture in Europe. From 1705, the Royal Hospital provided modest, wood-lined cabins as accommodation for retired sailors, housing as many as 2,700 residents at its peak in 1814. The last naval pensioners left in 1869, when the site became home to the Royal Naval College, an officers’ training academy, until 1997. When the Navy left, an independent charity was established to conserve the site for present and future generations, and create enjoyment, learning and unique cultural experiences for everyone.

Today this historic landmark is open to the public and is the home of three unique and free to visit attractions; the Painted Hall, the Chapel, and the Visitor Centre.

The Painted Hall is the greatest piece of decorative painting in England and has been described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’. The walls and ceilings were painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1708 and 1727.

The Chapel of St Peter and St Paul is a neo-classical masterpiece by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and William Newton. Featuring a Samuel Green organ and an altarpiece painted by Benjamin West, it is one of the finest eighteenth century interiors in existence.

The ORNC is free to all visitors and is open daily from 10.00-17.00.


Supporting the ORNC

Conservation work on the Painted Hall began in September 2016 and is due for completion in early 2019. However, the ORNC is still seeking £2m to enable it to reach its £8m target. The public can support their effort by ‘sponsoring a Square Foot’: LINK HERE

The ORNC charity is grateful to the following organisations for their support of this project: the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Sackler Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation, the Fidelity UK Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement, the Pilgrim Trust, the Headley Trust, the 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust and many anonymous donations.

To learn more about the conservation project visit http://www.ornc.org.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery

About the National Autistic Society:

The National Autistic Society is the UK's leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families. Founded in 1962, it provides information, support and pioneering services, and campaigns for a better world for people on the autism spectrum.

To find out more about autism or the NAS, visit www.autism.org.uk.  Follow the NAS on Twitter (@Autism) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/NationalAutisticSociety).

What is autism?

  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
  • More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including an estimated 700,000 people in the UK.
  • Every person on the autism spectrum is different. It can present some serious challenges – but, with the right support and understanding, autistic people and their families can live full lives.
  • Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum may:
    o be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely difficult
    o find social situations and change a challenge, sometimes leading to extreme levels of anxiety 
    o experience a ‘meltdown’ if overwhelmed by anxiety or sensory overload
    o benefit from extra time to process and respond to communication.
  • Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.