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How this Grocery Store is Accommodating Shoppers with Autism

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The grocery store can be many things: bountiful and busy, cathartic for some yet hectic for others. And while I personally love a good jaunt down the aisles, I know that the lights, crowds, and carts can be overwhelming. In response to this pandemonium, Australian supermarket Coles is introducing a new practice to accommodate a wider array of shoppers.

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The grocery chain has partnered with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) to develop a pilot program designed to make their stores a more sensory-friendly experience for customers living with Autism. The program, called ‘Quiet Hour,’ is being tested in two supermarkets in Melbourne once a week until the end of October.

For an hour on Tuesday mornings, the Coles locations will dim their lights by fifty percent, reduce the volume of overhead music, put a halt to all PA announcements, and stop trolley collection. These changes come as a response to research conducted by Aspect that shows people with Autism have trouble shopping due to noise and light overstimulation.

And so far, the efforts have proven fruitful. One Melbourne mom took to Facebook to sing her praises.

"Although we have modified some of the physical and sensory stimulators in store, we also hope to achieve a 'no-judgement' shopping space for people and families on the spectrum, where customers will feel comfortable and welcome,” said Linzi Coyle of Aspect Community Engagement and Operations. Because shopping doesn't have to be stressful. I, for one, welcome the motion to make the grocery store a friendlier place.

Would you welcome 'Quiet Hour'? Let us know in the comments.