One of New Zealand’s largest supermarket chains is introducing a “quiet hour” nationwide to make the weekly shop easier for those with autism or anxiety issues as well as older people who may prefer a more low-key experience.
The low-sensory hour will be introduced in Countdown stores on Wednesdays from 2.30pm to 3.30pm. Lighting will be dimmed, in-store radios turned off, checkout volumes lowered, trolley collection and shelf-stocking kept to a bare minimum, and no PA announcements broadcast except in emergencies, said general manage Kiri Hannifin.
An employee who has a son with autism suggested the idea, and after a year of trialling the concept in selected stores the supermarket giant has now adopted it for its 180 stores.
“We want our supermarkets to be welcoming and inclusive for all New Zealanders and their families. We know grocery shopping can be an anxiety-inducing experience for some customers and we wanted to help with that,” said Hannifin.
“The lovely thing about quiet hour is that we have had very positive feedback from so many customers. Our older customers seem to really enjoy quiet hours too, as well as many other Kiwis who actually just find shopping a bit stressful and can now visit at a more peaceful time.”
Dane Dougan, Autism New Zealand’s chief executive, said he was “thrilled” about the introduction of quiet hour, and said it would make a meaningful difference in the lives of people dealing with the condition.
“It highlights how some small changes can create a more inclusive environment that will impact people significantly,” Dougan said. “We’ve had amazing feedback from the autistic community who have benefited from quiet hour over the last year and the increased understanding of autism and sensory needs that it is having as well.”
This article was written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.