“Quiet Hours” – Letting Autistic Individuals Shop Peacefully

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Asda Living, a superstore in England, is being hailed for implementing ‘quiet hour” – times where the store encourages silence in order for autistic and disabled shoppers to be able to shop comfortably. The first quiet hour was a huge success, with eight other English superstores committing to follow Asda’s lead.

Simon Lea, manager of Asda Living in Cheetham Hill, noted that autistic shoppers often appeared uncomfortable or intimidated by the noises and actions taking place throughout the store. With thousands around the country living with autism disorders, he knew it was essential to implement a special time that would enable autistic shoppers to get their shopping done more effectively, where there are no disturbances or factors that may cause them stress.

This past Saturday, May 7th, Asda staged its first quiet hour, where those on the spectrum were invited to come to the store an hour earlier than standard opening to do some of their best shopping. Escalators, in-store music, and televisions were switched off. Customers were provided with maps of the stores, featuring photos of different departments, as opposed to lengthy descriptions. Lea, who proposed the concept, states that many similar stores in the surrounding areas have informed him that they will adapt to his store’s example.

Lea states, “[The quiet hour] went really well.  The store was silent, and we had great feedback from the families who benefited. It will be a regular event for us, every Saturday.” He continues, “We have eight other stores on board now who will be doing the same.”

Joanne Baines, who has a daughter on the autism spectrum, praised the store for creating this event. She states, “[We] came in this morning to get a school skirt and what a huge and positive impact your store, and more importantly your manager and staff, have had on my daughter this morning.” She continues, “She not only managed without her wheelchair and ear defenders, but she coped and didn’t go into crisis. This is huge. No head banging, biting, or screaming.”

As evident through statements such as Joanne’s, making the proper accommodations for those on the spectrum can truly make an incredible difference in their everyday lives. Hopefully, other major markets, both in the UK and US, will feel inspired to follow Asda’s example.

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