This hotel designed for people with autism is one of the first of its kind.

This story was originally published on The Mighty.

Vacations are great, but traveling can be especially stressful for people with sensory sensitivities who require certain accommodations to truly enjoy their holiday.

Enter The Vault, a new hotel in Gateshead, England, that understands the needs of the autism community and is prepared to make accommodations in a facility for and staffed by people with autism spectrum disorder.


The Vault, owned and operated by the St. Camillus Care Group, is one of the first hotels of its kind. In the United States, there are some “autism-friendly” hotels and hotels committed to hiring people on the spectrum, but there are no establishments designed specifically for training, hiring, or housing people with autism.

“The concept has been over a year in the making and stems from a shared vested interest in this field,” Darren Wilson, The Vault’s director of housing, health, and care told The Mighty. Wilson, who has 14 years of experience working in adult social care and housing, works with The Vault’s managing director, John Heron — who has successfully run several businesses despite his own learning disabilities — to make the group’s dream a reality.

“My driving passion is to offer people with autism and learning disabilities something different, but most importantly meaningful, that pushes the boundaries that have been placed around them by mainstream services,” Wilson said. “We are immensely proud of the trainees we have worked with to date and their dedication and commitment validates our overall plan for the business.”

Some of The Vault trainees. Image via The Mighty.

The cornerstone of The Vault’s mission is to hire people on the spectrum as well as others with learning disabilities.

“Our overall goal is to have potential employees assessed so that we are able to appropriately meet their employability needs,” Wilson said. These paid positions will focus on the different hospitality services offered by the hotel, including computer literacy, art, design, and those skills needed to work in a restaurant.

Each trainee at The Vault receives comprehensive training and support.

“[Training is] important to us because we believe that people with autism can become outstanding employees,” Wilson said. “We want to build a service that showcases the outstanding but often hidden talent people with autism and learning difficulties possess.”

Wilson hopes to train up to 28 employees through the program each year.

Rooms at The Vault are currently being revamped to accommodate the needs of those on the spectrum. While rooms are not available yet, Wilson anticipates guests will be able to stay at the hotel starting early this fall. In the meantime, The Vault is open to visitors who wish to eat at the establishment’s American-themed diner or visit their entertainment facilities — both of which make accommodations for people with special needs.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

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Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

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One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

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Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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