The supermarket giant has just announced that their ‘quiet hour’ for shoppers on the autism spectrum will be rolled out nationally in selected Coles stores.
Well done Coles
Recognising that supermarkets are an overwhelming place for people with sensory sensitives (think bright lights, beeping scanners and loud music), the supermarket chain has initiated a ‘quiet hour’.
For an hour between 10:30am and 11:30am each Tuesday, shoppers and their little trolley passengers can enjoy the peace of no music, dimmed lights by 50 per cent, no PA announcements (apart from emergencies), suspended trolley collections and turned down register and scanner volumes, all of which will be easier on the eyes and ears of people with autism.
From pilot to inclusive standard
Back in August, Coles announced it was teaming up with Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT) to trail a quiet hour in two Melbourne stores. The idea behind the pilot was to find out if a few simple ‘quiet changes’ to the supermarket would help people in the autism community. The inclusive initiative received lots of praise back then with people commending the chain for making shopping easier for them or their kids on the spectrum.
Thanks to the success of the trial, ‘quiet hour’ will now be offered in 68 supermarkets across Australia.
Why we need sensory sensitive shopping
Those on the autism spectrum find the auditory noise and visual noise of supermarkets overwhelming, sometimes to the point of distressing.
As such, a simple trip to the shops can be difficult for many individuals on the spectrum and their families.
“People on the autism spectrum often have difficulty processing sensory information and can find sounds, light, smell, touch and taste overwhelming,” Aspect’s community engagement and operations manager, Linzi Coyle said.
“Together with Coles, we’re achieving a ‘no-judgment’ shopping space where people on the spectrum and their families can feel comfortable and welcome whilst grocery shopping.”
Peter Sheean, Coles’ accessibility sponsor, said the company wanted a good geographic spread of participating stores. “We were really pleased to receive a positive response from our customers and team members, who welcomed Quiet Hour and provided feedback on social media,” he said.
We’re all clapping our hands
Those affected by autism are praising the initiative.
“This is absolutely amazing,” one person wrote on Aspect’s Facebook page.
“I know my son struggles going to the supermarket because of sensory overload so this would help make the stress of going to do the shopping alot [sic] less and more of a positive experience,” said another.
Where you’ll find quite hour Tuesdays
The 68 participating ‘quiet hour’ Coles are:
NSW Warners Bay
NSW Old Bar
NSW Banora Point
NSW Wattle Grove
NSW Moss Vale
NSW Kings Langley
NSW Manly Vale
NSW Castle Hill
QLD Cairns Central
QLD Kippa Ring
QLD Everton Park
QLD Rockhampton South
QLD Townsville Annandale
QLD Mt Gravatt
SA Tea Tree Plaza
SA Anzac Highway
SA Mount Barker
SA Port Pirie
NT Casuarina Bradshaw
VIC Brunswick West
VIC Altona Meadows
VIC Essendon Fields
VIC Ferntree Gully
VIC Brandon Park
VIC Cranbourne West
VIC Balwayn East
WA Margaret River
WA Southern River
WA South Lakes
WA Kalgoorlie (Hannans)
They’ve won me over
As the mum of a boy on the mild end of the spectrum, I am also celebrating and will be shopping at Coles (online) as a sign of my appreciation.
Although my four-year-old son is relativity OK with supermarkets, I never really take him to one for long. It’s a case of if we need milk, I may dash in with him quickly but after 10 or more minutes in one, I start to ‘lose’ him. And by loosing him, I mean he struggles to hear me, gets very silly, uncontrollable and also loud. As soon as we leave the supermarket though and we are back in a quiet environment, he’s calmer.
The art of inclusiveness
The thing about being inclusive is that it isn’t always just about letting everyone join in. Sometimes it’s about modifying things, such as using visual aids instead of just relying on auditory instructions at preschool, or closing the windows at school when the lawns are being mowed, so it’s easier for that person to participate in what’s going on in the first place, and this is exactly what Coles are doing.