How this Grocery Store is Accommodating Shoppers with Autism

August 17, 2017

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.

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.

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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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


P H. August 17, 2017
I don't have autism but I wish they'd do this in all the stores, all the time.
french_trash August 17, 2017
I think this is brilliant. We as a society really fail to consider these experiences and how isolating it can be for those with sensory processing issues. I hope they find a successful program which incorporates some of the concerns like Samantha listed below in addition to their current initiative. That way we can get more "quiet hours" happening worldwide, and allow those on the spectrum to participate in what can be a delightful activity.
JQ August 17, 2017
AND Shopping Malls. I just wish mall management would shut off the music.
It invades my space!
Samantha V. August 17, 2017
I have autism traits and often experience overload while shopping. However, the biggest problem for me is not the store itself, but the other shoppers. Their unpredictability, ignoring of space bubbles, and loud conversations are jarring and sometimes give me panic attacks. While lower lights are somewhat helpful. I just wear sunglasses for that, and music often is an anchor to ground me when other noises are freaking me out. Hopefully, though, the shoppers for quiet hour are more like me.