In 2014, our Programs and Services staff were pleased to work with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador (ASNL) as they worked to lower sound levels at their social enterprise restaurant – The Pantry Cafe at the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism in St. John’s.
If you have not yet visited this lovely facility, nestled in Pippy Park, St. John’s, it is a small, quaint space with lot’s of large windows overlooking the grounds and gardens. Due to the small space, and lot’s of hard surfaces, there was a lot of sound reverberation, meaning that the space could feel quite noisy, both for serving staff, staff working outside the doors of the restaurant space, and for restaurant customers.
How We Helped The Pantry Cafe
To begin their process, staff from the Autism Society borrowed a sound meter from our Assistive Technology program to get an idea of noise in the restaurant (note: this does not replace a professional noise assessment, but gives a preliminary estimate of sound levels). We then met to talk about possible communication barriers for staff and customers, and some possible noise reduction solutions.
Several months later, we provided a letter of support as the Society looked for funding to install acoustic ceiling paneling in the cafe.
Successful Noise Reduction at The Pantry Cafe
To address the sound levels and to make the space more accessible, the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador (ASNL) took several steps to improve noise levels, including adding new chair covers and toppers above the windows. In September 2015, the ASNL was approved for an Accessibility Grant from the Department of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development to improve the acoustics of The Pantry Café.
The money from the grant allowed the ASNL to purchase acoustic sound tiles which were installed along the ceiling. This made the café more accessible to clients and visitors to the Centre and Café. Immediately the sound levels changed dramatically and created a more inclusive and accessible environment for clients and patrons.
This is the perfect example of the effectiveness of collaboration, creative thinking and positive change through a commitment to improving a physical space for both employees and the public. Thank you to the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador for their forward thinking and for setting such a positive example in our community.
If you are looking for a quiet(er) place to eat, be sure to visit the Pantry Cafe soon.